A CANTEEN and theatre built by prisoners of war at a camp will be better protected from the elements thanks to a £500,000 grant.

English Heritage has given the money to ensure the two buildings at Harperley Camp, near Crook, County Durham, are no longer battered by strong winds.

The camp, near the A68 roundabout between Crook and Weardale, has been owned by James and Lisa McLeod since 2000, but closed in 2007 because of a lack of funds.

Two years ago, the tourist attraction was put up for sale on eBay for £900,000, but failed to attract a bid.

Mr McLeod said a lot of work was going on behind the scenes to preserve and reopen the attraction.

An announcement about the potential sale of the site is due in the next few weeks, but Mr McLeod said the grant was extremely welcome.

He said: “It will allow us to put up two large sheds to cover the historical buildings.

“The major problem here is the wind and the devastating effect it can have on the old buildings. This grant will allow us to provide some vital preservation.

“Things are now looking very positive for the site and we are hopeful that it will open back up again.”

The camp housed hundreds of German and Italian prisoners during the Second World War. It was awarded ancient monument status in 2002.

The site has 49 sleeping huts, and the theatre was built by the inmates to keep themselves entertained.

In 2009, it missed out on a £2m windfall when it was featured on the BBC’s Restoration programme, but failed to gain enough public votes.

An English Heritage spokesman said: “The canteen was the main communal building and was decorated by the inmates, who painted idealised scenes of the German countryside on the walls.

“From paintings of forested mountain ranges to grazing stags, the prisoners used these areas of the camp to remind them of home.”

Architect Ptolemy Dean said: “The challenge that faces us is how best to preserve the physical fabric of what are essentially low-cost, short-life huts.

“A wider challenge is how the site overall will be conserved, with its melancholy, decay and bleak remoteness.”