A new look 300-space car park set to play a vital role in the regeneration of a North East town, has been officially taken over by the Auckland Castle Trust.
More than 100 extra spaces have been created by Durham County Council in Bishop Auckland’s North Bondgate car park. The additional parking will help support the influx of visitors expected to be attracted by major heritage and tourist-led developments underway in the area.
These include a £60m programme of preservation, development and reinterpretation at Auckland Castle to turn it into a world class visitor destination. In addition, the Eleven Arches Trust’s Kynren live open air night show will open this summer, taking audiences on an epic journey through 2,000 years of British history.
As well as the extra parking, the council has improved access to North Bondgate and installed new barriers and lighting. With this work complete the ongoing operation and management of the car park has, from April 1, been passed to the Auckland Castle Trust.
Cllr Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration and culture, added: “The amazing plans that both the Auckland Castle and Eleven Arches Trusts are putting in place promise to massively increase the number of visitors to Bishop Auckland, as well as create jobs and boost the local economy.
“By expanding and improving the car park, as part of our ongoing support for the array of projects, we hope to help make sure that residents and businesses benefit just as much as these very welcome new visitors.”
Liz Fisher, Auckland Castle Trust’s Operations Director, said the growth of the car park and handover was “great news for Bishop Auckland and the ongoing developments that are underway in the area.
“It is a clear and positive sign of the Auckland Castle Trust’s intent going forward, and that the ambitious multi-million pound works planned are on track.
“The transformation of Auckland Castle into a world class faith-led arts and cultural centre is about to forge ahead in earnest, bringing many more people into Bishop Auckland, providing a positive boost for businesses.
“If we can provide an easier parking experience then that has to be good for everyone: the castle, the town’s businesses, locals and castle visitors.”
For its part, the Auckland Castle Trust has installed new signage and launched a free to use volunteer led ‘car to castle’ shuttle service from 1 April for visitors with mobility problems wanting to reach the former palace home of England’s only Prince Bishops.
The Trust has also put measures in place to ensure that spaces are available for residents and local shoppers and is using volunteer car park attendants to greet visitors with information on everything Bishop Auckland has to offer.
The transfer of the management, operation and ongoing maintenance of the North Bondgate car park from Durham County Council to the Auckland Castle Trust follows a consultation programme held last summer which saw overwhelming support for the new set-up from the public.
A second phase, which could see the car park expanded further into adjacent land, is currently being considered with any potential work taking place later in the year
Ms Fisher said: “We will continue to listen to local views, and take those into account as we move forward with the exciting developments at the castle.”
These include a new welcome building with viewing tower, museum extension to house a Faith exhibition, the preservation of the state rooms, and the revival of Auckland Castle’s historic walled garden to include landscaping and a series of dramatic and futuristic freeform glass and steel structures in the shape of giant bubbles that will house a restaurant, event areas, and exotic fruit trees.
Alongside the Kynren night show, the projects are expected to create the equivalent of 200 full time jobs, 500 indirect posts, 300 training opportunities and 800 volunteering openings, as well as provide a huge boost to the local economy.