PLANS have been revealed for a tower to welcome visitors to a North-East castle.

The project is in the early stages, but Auckland Castle Trust is hoping a stone structure can be built on a piece of derelict land outside the arch of Auckland Castle, in Bishop Auckland.

The design is still being finalised but at the moment the idea is to create a round tower up to 14 metres high, which is the height of the arch, with a viewing platform at the top.

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The proposed site, which is owned by the castle, used to house a number of cottages until they became rundown and were knocked down 50 years ago.

The trust is working closely with English Heritage and Durham County Council but they are keen to hear from the public.

David Ronn, of Auckland Castle Trust, said: “For a thousand years this place has been something to do with the high church. It has had a high brow impact and with it a great big sign saying keep out.

“Now this is the start of something different. It is welcoming and about learning, enjoyment and fun. The tower marks that turning point. It would have an inward look to the castle and an outward look over the town.

“It is about the social and economic regeneration of this end of Bishop Auckland.

“We love this idea of the tower. It will look beautiful. This is a statement about the future, not just for the castle but for the town.

“It might be something of a beacon of ambition or civic pride maybe.”

He added: “These are just ideas at the moment. We are talking to people and we want to hear opinions. The design has already changed since we started because of what people have said.”

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 opens for the first time this year on Sunday (March 30). It will be open between 10.30am and 4pm every day except Tuesday. Last admission will be 3.30pm.

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