UP to 130 jobs will be created at a North-East castle within the next five years.

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

When it opened to the public last year there were just six people employed, at present there is about 20.

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Up to 130 full time jobs or equivalent, including apprenticeships, are expected to be created as the renovation work is carried out.

David Ronn, of Auckland Castle Trust, said: “We have a lot of plans and we are full of positive thinking and hope. Jobs will be created, together with volunteer and training opportunities.”

The Auckland Castle Trust has received the initial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to start a £17m project to turn the castle in Bishop Auckland into a major heritage site.

The £1m, which is expected to be the first installment of a £9m grant from the HLF, is being used to hire staff for the project, research the site and find architects to develop the scheme.

The project will see the restoration of the castle's state rooms and chapel and the re-modelling and extension of the Scotland Wing and other parts of the site to ensure it is capable of sustaining two permanent exhibitions of international stature, and to provide facilities for visitors. It will transform the palace, which is expected to attract 120,000 visitors in five years' time.

Mr Ronn said: “We are actively looking for local tradesman and services we can use. We don’t want to go further than we have to. Where we can we will use local services.”

He added that they expect footfall to increase in Bishop Auckland town centre after banning parking in the castle grounds.

Motorists are being directed to public car parks and asked to walk to the historic site.

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