BATTLE scenes shot for a 20th Century Fox Robin Hood film in the grounds of Peckforton Castle, near Tarporley, are nothing compared to the financial battles which have been fought for a decade by its owner, Evelyn Graybill, in her bid to develop the impressive Gothic building.

But now her fight is over - thanks to the Business Link team at Crewe and Nantwich Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise - and she can concentrate on achieving her ambition to convert the hilltop castle into a top hotel and conference centre.

The castle - a popular tourist attraction and a busy venue for functions, including marriage blessings in the small church within its courtyard - already had planning permission to be converted into a 50-bedroom hotel when it was bought for £1 million by hotelier Mrs Graybill in 1988.

She planned to spend as much again on the conversion, but an Inland Revenue reassessment led to her company being put into the hands of the receiver.

Frustrated after many rounds of tussles to try to overcome issues surrounding two hotels in Eastbourne which Mrs Graybill sold in order to buy and develop Peckforton, she finally wrote to Tony Blair.

His office put her in touch with Government Office North West who in turn pointed her in the direction of the South and East Cheshire TEC in Middlewich and the chamber who deliver Business Link services.

Mrs Graybill said: "They've been wonderful. Their professional expertise and support has resulted in a financial rescue package which is providing the capital needed to finally allow me to plan for the future."

When she first embarked on her dream to convert Peckforton into a hotel, Mrs Graybill believed money from the sale of the two hotels on the south coast would be lumped together so that she could buy the castle and carry out the necessary renovations.

Unfortunately, protracted capital gains assessment complications involving the sale of one of the hotels led to her running out of development capital, and the receiver moved in.

A spokesman for the Business Link advisory team which has assisted Mrs Graybill said: "We realised that Peckforton Castle had potential and this was being thwarted because the owner was unable to obtain the additional funding.

"Now she is in a position to carry out her original plans and create one of the most exclusive hotels in the region."

Mrs Graybill now plans to spend the next six months developing a strategy which, hopefully, will enable her to fulfil her ambition to convert the former ancestral home of Lord Tollemache.

Mrs Graybill said: "Although it has taken 10 years I am delighted by the recent outcome and extremely positive about the future.

"When I first walked through the portcullis into the courtyard I knew this magnificent building was ripe for development and now, with the help of the Business Link team, I believe my dreams will be achieved."

Converted for the new archive on 13 March 2001. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.