A £28.5million rescue mission could be launched to transform an historic estate into a tourism hot spot through 400 new homes and the creation of up to 525 jobs.
Proposals for the Lambton Estate, near Bournmoor, have been recommended for approval and also feature office space and shops.
If granted, the project would help fund the conservation of the park, with potential to turn the crumbling Lambton Castle into a wedding venue, boutique hotel or both, with between £26million and £28.5million needed to fund the work.
The idea of turning the private park into an attraction could bring in around 75,000 people a year, with spending by visitors expected to hit up to £750,000 a year and benefit to businesses in the area by up to £4million.
The papers for the scheme, which will go before councillors on Durham County Council next Tuesday, also detail how two new roundabouts could be built off the A183 Chester Road to handle traffic.
The document also sets out how “very special circumstances” apply and justify the development, detailing how it would conserve the estate, provide more than 9 miles of footpaths and cycle routes, offering “unprecedented public access which otherwise remain private.”
The estate is now at a critical point in its history and requires a long term, viable framework to provide significant investment to secure its future and preserve the heritage assets.The Trustees of Lord Durham’s 1989 Voluntary Settlement
It would create mostly executive housing, with 60 affordable homes for rent and sale, with the whole project offering a total economic value of £52million and supporting the Northern Powerhouse.
The plans have been submitted by the Trustees of Lord Durham’s 1989 Voluntary Settlement, which manages the estate on behalf of the Lambton family.
The site is already home to the Bowes Offices, which houses around 20 businesses, and expanding the complex for those who want to relocate their business close to home could generate between 460 to 525 new jobs.
The application states: “Despite past efforts, and recent investment, many of the properties and historic grounds continue to decline.
“The estate is now at a critical point in its history and requires a long term, viable framework to provide significant investment to secure its future and preserve the heritage assets.”
While the housing and business development would be built on greenbelt land next to the former Lambton Lion Park and garden centre, the trustees say the vast majority of the land would remain untouched.
Sunderland City Council, along with two individuals, raising issues with an increase on the demand for school places, decrease for office space in Sunderland, and states the highway improvements are not acceptable.
The estate has previously been part of a legal battle between Lord Durham, who inherited the park as part of estate when the 6th Earl of Durham died in 2006, and his sisters after they fought for a share of the family’s assets and has since been resolved.
Biddick Hall, which has been the family residence on the estate since the 1930s, and the castle have been used as the backdrop for The Paradise television show, which was dropped by the BBC after two series.
The County Planning Committee meeting will be held at County Hall on Tuesday at 1pm.