WORK on a new multi-million pound welcome building dubbed Bishop Auckland’s version of “the Angel of the North” has started.

Ground is now being broken on the structure which will stand overlooking the Market Place in Bishop Auckland from 2018.

Designed to resemble a great wooden siege engine drawn against the walls of Auckland Castle, the building will form a direct link between Auckland Castle and the town centre; opening up access to a property that remained a private residence for 900 years.

Once completed it will serve as a starting point for visitors to Bishop Auckland, as well as a meeting space for a wide range of community events.

It will also boast a 29m high tower with a 15m viewing platform, offering views across the Castle grounds, town centre and countryside.

Supported by The Headley Trust, the new welcome building has been created by award-winning Niall McLaughlin Architects, which specialises in innovative, interpretive buildings that remain considerate to their surroundings.

It is the latest development in Auckland Castle Trust’s £70m regeneration project to revitalise the area and serve as an information hub for local residents, visitors and tourists.

Jonathan Ruffer, Chair of Auckland Castle Trust, said the building was a modern which stood in a “significant place” to link the town and Castle.

“A lot of people think of Bishop Auckland as yesterday’s place but I think of it as tomorrow’s,” he said. “We have been thinking on terms of what will the town think of it and we are hoping it has a wow impact.”

Mr Ruffer said he was particularly excited by the building’s tower which would allow people to view land which has seen so much history in 360 degrees.

Hundreds of County Durham workers will also benefit as the contract has been awarded to Bishop Auckland building and engineering firm, VEST Construction.

“This is a really unique project for us,” said Darren Cooke, Contracts Director, VEST Construction. “The architect’s drawings are amazing and, while it will undoubtedly have its challenges, it will be remarkable to see the building rising on what is now an empty patch of land.”

He added: “It will look totally different to anything here; similar to the Angel of the North as people might come from far and wide to look at it.”

The Welcome Building’s ground breaking, which follows a realignment of the Market Place by Durham County Council, supported by the North East Combined Authority (NECA) and North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP), marks one of the first visible signs of Auckland Castle Trust’s revitalisation project.

Ultimately it will include a Spanish Art Gallery, Mining Art Gallery, Walled Garden, Faith Museum and fully restored Bishop’s Palace.