ONE of Wear Valley's historic parks will be given a £1m revamp if a lottery bid proves successful.

Plans to repair, restore and upgrade Auckland Castle Park in Bishop Auckland, have been backed by councillors in order to attract more visitors to the town.

The project could see the introduction of a visitor's centre with tea room and toilet facilities and a scheme put in place to ensure listed buildings and structures and their settings in the park are conserved.

Wear Valley District Council had already explored the possiblilty of restoring the park in 1997 but found it was unable to find the relevant match funding to secure a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Urban Parks Fund - now known as the public parks initiative.

At the time the council needed to find 25 per cent of the bid through match funding with the HLF giving 75 per cent and it decided at the time not to go through with the bid.

Now the rules have changed and the council has to find just ten per cent of the costs if the bid is up to £1million. Costs at the time of the last report were estimated at around £950,000.

The park already attracts visitors who enjoy wandering around the Bishop of Durham's castle and its picturesque surroundings, which feature 14 listed buildings and structures, including a deer shelter which is a scheduled Ancient Monument.

English Heritage has included it on its register of parks and gardens of historic interest for England and the council is hoping to ensure that it keeps its character as a medieval parkland and 18th Century landscape.

It is not sure whether the new visitor's centre will be created at the Lodge building at the gateway to the castle and park or whether it will be located at the Discovery Centre in the town centre.

Another possibility is to erect a new building within the park boundary.

The existing mature woodland and trees will be rejuvenated and replaced and the council is hoping to maximise the educational and heritage value of the park through events and interpretation.

The plans have been welcomed by local councillors who say the project is long overdue. Coun Barbara Laurie, who represents Bishop Auckland, said: "I would very much like to see this happening.''