PLANS to offer public access to a tunnel running beneath historic Roker Pier have today taken a major step forward.
Sunderland City Council has gained initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), paving the way for the development of a more detailed funding bid for £500,000 in the next two years.
It has also awarded the council £53,200 to develop plans for activities, conservation, management and maintenance, as well as further designs and interpretations.
Today’s announcement coincides with the 110th anniversary of the opening of the pier on September 23, 1903.
The tunnel runs the entire length of the structure and helped carry gas pipes which powered the crane which turned its designs into a reality.
It was later used to help the keeper reach the lighthouse in bad weather.
News from the HLF follows on from the launch of plans in February, when city leaders said they would invest £1.35million in a programme of restoration of the Grade II listed pier.
Work began to restore the lantern house last month.
The next priority will be to make a start on resurfacing the pier next year.
But the council says a successful bid for additional cash from the HLF would allow it to deliver a comprehensive pier restoration scheme.
Cabinet secretary Councillor Mel 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.
“There’s a real sense of history down there and I think it’s something that lots of people would be interested in experiencing.”
Ivor Crowther, head of the HLF 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.
The pier restoration is part of the ongoing regeneration of Sunderland’s seafront, which is set to see £5million of investment over the next few years.
A second phase of promenade improvements at Seaburn is due for completion and further ones are also underway at Marine Walk, Roker.