IMPROVEMENTS and repairs to Sunderland Minster Churchyard and Town Park are underway.

The park, at the south of Sunderland Minster, is a key feature of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and City Council-backed Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme.

Altogether, £700,000 is being invested in the two projects with a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £460,000 plus match-funding of £240,000 from the council.

The works are part of the £1.5bn package of city-wide public and private sector investment projects that Sunderland has planned over the next five years, including half-a-billion in the city centre.

In the park, which was originally the heart of Bishopwearmouth village, updates include the creation of a new central seating area on the footprint of the historic streets of Little Gate and South Gate, new granite paving, new steps to Low Row and improved lighting. An interpretation panel will also be added to explain the important history of the medieval settlement.

The works to the south and east boundary walls around Sunderland Minster will complement park and open space improvements. These works include: rebuilding unstable sections, repointing in traditional lime, and replacing the modern railings with traditional cast iron railings to match the surviving historic sections.

Last month it was announced that the heritage fund and the council, working with owners, were helping fund restoration works at the landmark Peacock and Dun Cow public houses. These two buildings are also part of the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme.

Councillor Rebecca Atkinson, the City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, said: “The Town Park has been a hidden gem and these works are going to make it shine more brightly and see it enjoyed by more people.

“The parks works are complementing the Minster works, we have seen the recent announcements about the Peacock and the Dun Cow, and there is more good news to come about this historic part of our city.

Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, Councillor Kevin Johnston said: “When we add Bishopwearmouth to the bigger picture, we see how this City Council continues to work with local groups, with developers and with national organisations, such as the National Lottery, to leverage more improvements and more investment into our city.

“We have a strong track record of working with our partners and, as well as improving our city scape for residents and visitors, it all helps attract further investment from businesses.”

In total, £1.9m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund has been awarded to the council for the scheme which is set to run for five years. It is offering building and repair grants to property owners as well as helping fund the Town Park make over.

Ivor Crowther, Head of Investment England North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Money raised by National Lottery players has achieved an incredible amount for Sunderland’s heritage, with more than £36m invested into projects including the Fire Station, Hylton Castle and Holy Trinity Church.

“We’re delighted that Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme is one of those projects. This scheme is all about investing and helping to conserve and improve one of Sunderland’s most-loved and distinctive areas.”

Operating until August 2023, the scheme is providing grant assistance for works to historic buildings, hosting a range of events and activities to get residents involved in their local heritage, and all the current updates.

Adrian Barton, Contract Manager at BCE Northern, said: “We are delighted to have been selected by Sunderland City Council with the award to enhance the historic town park. We have a strong track record of working with the Landscape Architects at the City Council and its partners in delivering high quality heritage improvements to improve the city scape and public open spaces for the residents and visitors. When completed the park will be a superb area for people to spend quality time to relax in the historic surroundings.”

Alongside the townscape heritage projects, which are due to be completed next year, improvements to access and landscaping around the Empire are nearing completion as part of the council’s commitment to improving the city centre.

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