Major roadworks in Bishop Auckland are now paving the way for a warmer welcome at one of the town’s oldest venues.

As part of the ambitious transformation of Auckland Castle and the surrounding area, Durham County Council is realigning the roads in Castle Chare and Market Place.

This work, designed to complement the multi-million pound, award-winning regeneration of the Market Place carried out by the council in 2011, will restore the original approach to the 900 year-old Castle, which was altered with the addition of raised flower beds in the 1960s.

The timing of the works, which are already well underway, will also ensure that construction for the tourist destination’s new Welcome Building, next to King’s Lodge, can begin on schedule on October 1.

Once completed, the new layout will serve to streamline traffic and ensure easier access for residents and businesses using the Market Place, as well as the 190,000 visitors expected annually at Auckland Castle and its associated venues.

This includes the Faith Galleries, which will be housed in a new castle extension, and a walled garden and restaurant, which all begin construction when Auckland Castle closes to daily visitors for a multi-million pound restoration later this year.

Temporary road closures are expected to be in force until November, with traffic being diverted into the town centre from Durham Road via Kingsway and the A689.

In the meantime, allowances are being made for access by emergency vehicles, waste disposal vehicles, local residents and pedestrians, as well as the Auckland Castle shuttle bus, which will continue to run daily from North Bondgate car park to the Castle until the end of September.

Planning permission has also been granted for a temporary access road through Auckland Park from the A688 via Binchester and north along Dial Stob Hill, to help minimise construction traffic passing through the Market Place and surrounding residential areas as this large scale development gets underway.

Liz Fisher, Operations Director for Auckland Castle, said: “The realignment of the roads in Castle Chare and Market Place, will not only restore the original approach to Auckland Castle, with the Robinson Arch as the focal point, but it will also pave the way for the positive things to come.

“We will be making the most of the road closures to get construction for our new Welcome Building underway in October and are working closely with Durham County Council to minimise disruption during this time.

“Once completed, the realigned road network will ensure an easier and more effective path of entry and exit for Bishop Auckland residents, business and visitors alike and we appreciate the patience of the public as we work towards this goal.”

For more information about the development plans at Auckland Castle visit www.aucklandcastle.org/futureplans.  For detailed information on the work being carried out by Durham County Council visit www.durham.gov.uk/bishopworks