VISITORS could soon be able to access the Roker Pier’s historic tunnel.
The underground passage runs the length of the structure, and has been used by emergency crews to rescue stranded fishermen and others caught out by bad weather.
But soon the tunnel could be open to the public.
Sunderland City Council today announced it secured initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund HLF to develop a detailed funding bid to open up the tunnel.
HLF also awarded the council development funding of £53,200 to develop an activity plan, conservation plan, further design and interpretation work and a management and maintenance plan.
Today’s announcement coincides with the 110th anniversary of the opening of Roker Pier on 23 September 1903.
The council announced plans to invest £1.35m in a rolling programme of restoration for 110-year-old Grade II listed Roker Pier in February this year and work began to restore the lantern house in August.
Cabinet Secretary Councillor Mel Speding said the authority’s next priority will be to make a start on resurfacing the deck of the pier next year, but a successful bid for additional cash from the HLF would allow the council to deliver a comprehensive pier restoration scheme.
Coun Speding said: “We’re delighted to have secured initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Pier.
“Roker Pier is one of Sunderland’s best loved landmarks and were we to be successful, the additional £500,000 funding would make such a difference in improving and preserving the pier for future generations to enjoy.
“As well as allowing us to restore the lighthouse to its former glory, it would also mean we could press ahead with our ambitions to restore the tunnel that runs underneath the pier and open it to the public.
“There’s a real sense of history down there and I think it’s something that lots of people would be interested in experiencing. We’d also like to develop a range of resources to make the most of the pier’s heritage and educational potential.”
Explaining the importance of HLF support, Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East added: “Roker Pier is an impressive example of Victorian engineering and played a crucial role in the creation of the wider Sunderland Dock, shaping the area as we know it today. Our initial support means that Sunderland City Council can develop their exciting and engaging plans to not only restore and enhance the historic fabric of the pier, lighthouse and underground tunnels, but also put it right back at the heart of the community, providing much-needed opportunities for social and economic regeneration.”
The pier restoration is part of the bigger picture in terms of the ongoing regeneration of Sunderland’s seafront, which is set to see £5 million of investment over the next few years.
A second phase of promenade improvements at Seaburn is due for completion this Autumn and further promenade improvements are also underway at Marine Walk, Roker.