DURHAM'S MP is urging English Heritage to release cash to fund the upkeep of an ageing city landmark, to prevent 'vandalism by inaction.'

Durham Castle needs up to £4m for restoration work, but suffers in bidding for grant aid as it is a university-owned building, and therefore deemed to receive education funding.

This double funding 'jeopardy' cost Durham University £400,000 in earmarked European grants last year towards the repair of the 900-year-old castle, home to University College since 1837.

A bid for £3m from the Heritage Lottery Fund was turned down due to the failure to 'match fund' the figure.

The dilemma was highlighted recently when the castle was added to English Heritage's 'at risk' register of listed buildings in need of repair.

Durham MP Gerry Steinberg has now written to the Heritage Lottery Fund urging it to find a way to help conserve the castle.

"The lottery fund has said it can not give grants to conserve educational buildings, but now the fabric of the castle has become so bad that English Heritage has put it on its register of buildings 'at risk.'

"It's nonsense to say that the heritage fund cannot help to save Durham Castle," said Mr Steinberg.

"The castle is not just a building of national importance, it has international significance. It's obvious that the university can't bear the total cost of upkeep of the castle without damaging its fundamental educational aims.

"To allow the castle to crumble would be vandalism by inaction."

Martin Roberts, historic bui-ldings inspector for English Heritage in the North-East, said the castle was only 'on the edge' of being classed 'at risk.'

But he said English Heri-tage is helping to prepare a World Heritage site management plan for the castle.

"It will need long-term funding and we have entered discussions to look again at the problem," added Mr Roberts