A FUNDING bid has finally been submitted to restore and reopen historic Hylton Castle.
Campaigners have been fighting for more than a decade to see the 14th-century fortress brought back into use.
Now community workers, heritage experts and council chiefs have submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Keith Younghusband, chairman of Friends of Hylton Dene, said: “We think we’ve got a good case and we’ve got support from three groups – the Friends of Hylton Dene, Sunderland City Council and English Heritage.”
Proposed uses for the castle include a fully-functioning visitor attraction and community centre, to a wedding venue and youth sleepover venue.
Mr Younghusband said the main aim was to put a roof on the castle, and repair the building to an acceptable level.
The cost is expected to be substantial, and Mr Younghusband said the all-party group behind the bid would need to look at how much it got before deciding how to move forward.
“We’ve done as much as we can do, it’s a matter of waiting now,” he said.
“If we can’t get the funding then we can’t go ahead, but even if we get turned down the first time we can still apply again.”
He added: “It’s got to be sustainable, and we’ve got to show it’s sustainable.
“No one is going to give us funding for a project that will fail in a couple of years.”
Thousands of visitors descended on Hylton Castle last summer, when Civil War re-enactment group the Sealed Knot recreated the Battle of Hylton Castle.
Mr Younghusband said: “That showed the community support we have, and that if things happen at the castle, people will turn up.”
Once an important stronghold, the castle today is an empty shell.
Recent years have seen vandalism, graffiti and arson attacks on its historic walls.
Mr Younghusband said bringing it back into use would stop that.
The Friends of Hylton Dene say the castle would be an important community facility, in what is one of the most underprivileged areas in the North East.
The group said the castle already attracts overseas visitors, and the revamp project would make it a big part of Sunderland’s tourism offer – helping to improve the city’s economy.
Campaigners hope to set up a heritage trail including the castle, the St Peter’s World Heritage candidate site and Washington Old Hall – with its links to the United States.