THE PAST NOW HAS A FUTURE as local people will be given their first glimpse of detailed restoration plans for one of Sunderland’s best known historic landmarks.

The Hylton Castle Project will see the restoration of the buildings and grounds of the 14thcentury gatehouse, creating a new centre for heritage and learning at the heart of the community, sharing the history and cultural heritage of the site with a new generation.

Designs for the site are now at an advanced stage, with contractors due to be appointed in the next few weeks to begin the restoration work.

A public drop-in session has been arranged for Tuesday 21 February at the nearby Bunnyhill Centre (2.30pm – 7.00pm) so people can see the detailed plans, meet the project team and share their views and suggestions on the future of the castle.

Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, Councillor John Kelly said: “It’s exciting to see local people’s vision for the castle to once again become at the centre of community life, finally becoming reality.

“The fact we have now reached the design and construction stage is testament to their hard work and determination, and we can all look forward to the castle re-opening its doors as a cultural heritage and education centre.”

Learning Manager Elanor Johnson joined Director Jon Charlton on the Hylton Castle Project team last month, and is hoping to meet as many people as possible at the drop-in session and over the coming months to share their views and opinions of how things should progress.

Elanor said: “It’s great to see the vision of a new future for Hylton Castle taking shape, and we are looking forward to hearing ideas from the community and helping turn them in to reality.”

Elanor is keen to hear from anyone who would like to get involved with the project, and can be contacted via elanor.johnson@sunderland.gov.uk or 0191 561 8611.

The most recent development in the restoration project is a new website www.hyltoncastle.org.uk.

The website includes information on the history of the castle, news and events, visitor information, and links to social media channels.

The next steps in the project will be;

Spring 2017   –   Appointment of contractors to begin the restoration of the building.

Summer 2017   –    Work continues on site whilst a programme of engagement including education and outreach events, apprenticeships and training opportunities takes place. Recruitment of volunteers to work with the project team.

Summer 2018   –   Hylton Castle opens its doors to the public.

The project is funded by £2.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and an additional £1.5 million from Sunderland City Council. The project is currently administered by members of the Hylton Castle Project Board appointed by Sunderland City Council, including the Friends of Hylton Castle and Dene which is the local voluntary group who have campaigned for more than twenty years to have the castle restored and returned to community use.

Chair of the Friends of Hylton Castle and Dene which includes all the local Castle ward councillors, Keith Younghusband said: “After many years of hard work by lots of people, Hylton Castle is facing a bright future.  We’d love to hear what people think of the designs before work starts on site, so I hope everyone will come along to the drop-in session and share their views and suggestions with us.”