VISITORS will be banned from parking in the grounds of a North-East castle in a bid to boost town centre trade.

Motorists heading to Auckland Castle, in Bishop Auckland, which will open to the public for the first time this year on Sunday, March 30, will be directed to the town’s public car parks.

Organisers hope this will increase footfall in the town centre and also give people a better experience of their visit to the castle.

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“Historically walking through the arch is the processional route to the Bishop of Durham’s residence and we are keen to reinstate that,” said Liz Fisher, of Auckland Castle.

“We are asking people to park outside of the grounds because last year we had 10,000 visitors and this year we hope that number will reach 15,000 and eventually we are aiming for 150,000. So it will be very difficult to accommodate all the cars.

“The town is very important to us and we want to make an impact in the town and by parking there people will have to walk through. Hopefully this will help make a difference."

Staff and volunteers are also being given alternative parking, however disabled badge holders will still be allowed to park on site.

The finishing touches are being put in place ahead of the castle opening on Mother’s Day.

Visitors will be able to explore the building with the help of a new app, which will give detailed information on exhibits and the castle.

Admission is £8 for adults and under-16s go free. Anyone filling in a consultation questionnaire will see their admission price reduced to £4.

A temporary cafe will be open in the library, which will be free to enter.

Auckland Castle is undergoing a multi-million transformation to develop it into a major heritage site.

The Auckland Castle Trust now runs what was the palace of the Bishops of Durham before it was bought by philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer from the Church of England in 2012.

The castle will be open between 10.30am and 4pm every day except Tuesday. Last admission will be 3.30pm.