Hylton Castle's future - you decide

A Wearside landmark could be brought back to life as a wedding venue, disco spot or history centre – but it's up to you.

Campaigners fighting to restore Hylton Castle have been given 50,000 to carry out a study to see if it is possible to rescue the empty shell and bring it back into use.

The Friends of Hylton Dene have hired consultants Resources for Change to put together an Audience Development Plan to use in designing a project for the castle.

And now they want Echo readers' to come forward with their ideas on the 14th Century castle by taking part in a survey.

John Coulthard, chairman of the Friends group, said: "There are a lot of people saying something could be done, but what do people really want?

"We want to get as many people as possible taking part in the survey and saying what they want around the castle and on the dene."

The survey looks at how the castle is used now and what people want to see it used for in the future.

Suggestions include a wedding venue, youth centre, heritage centre and an educational facility to be used by groups and individuals of all ages and backgrounds.

"We really need as much involvement of groups and individuals to say what they want and would like so that the site will meet the needs of all concerned," said Mr Coulthard.

Urging people to fill out the forms, he said it was important that the Friends could show a public demand for the restoration of Hylton Castle and projects for the neighbouring chapel and surrounding dene.

Hylton Castle is in the custody of English Heritage, and Sunderland City Council owns the land on which it sits.

The Friends of Hylton Dene needs to show the two organisations – and possible project funders – that it has a viable business plan for the castle, which will be self-sustaining in the future.

Culture secretary Andy Burhnam gave his support to the Friends group when he visited the castle in March.

The Friends group has been fighting to rescue the vandal-hit landmark for years and put it to use as a centre for the community, attracting visitors from across the globe.It has already organised many tours for American and Canadian tourists and hopes to set up a heritage trail linking the castle to St Peter's Church at Monkwearmouth and Washington Old Hall.

In December it won a 50,000 Heritage Lottery Planning Grant to carry out detailed studies into the plans and put in place the groundwork to make them a reality.

To take part in the survey on Hylton Castle, visit: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=NhNms9_2b9T4Vbwb2TcEYzAQ_3d_3d

A paper-based survey will also be carried out at the castle itself on Bank Holiday Monday and other times in the coming weeks.