Durham County Council has granted planning permission for a series of planning applications by Purcell and Niall McLaughlin Architects at the 800-year-old Auckland Castle
The extension of the Scotland wing of the castle, which is being led by heritage specialists Purcell, will contain a new gallery housing rare paintings by Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán, along with other visitor attractions.
A separate contemporary-design tower will provide an information point, ticket office, toilets, and a shop, along with a viewing platform providing views of the surrounding landscape.
The projects form part of a £50 million scheme by the Auckland Castle Trust to convert the former home of the Bishop of Durham into a major heritage site.
It is hoped that the refurbishment of the castle will boost visitor numbers and revenue.
The tower will be built on a derelict site on the western boundary of the Auckland Castle Estate, in alignment with an existing building on Bishop Auckland Market Place.
English Heritage supported the application, saying: ‘Whilst the impact of the proposal is initially challenging, the quality of its design is considerable, not only from a local but a national, perhaps international, perspective…’
Council officers concluded that there would be some impact on neighbours, but not enough to justify refusal of the application.
A statement from the trust admitted: ‘We appreciate that not everyone will like the design on paper however we hope to marry the response to historic timber buildings that might have stood there in medieval times with the excitement of contemporary treatment.’
It said that it hoped the building would become an attraction in itself.
Last March, the practice won the competition to transform the castle into a national museum of religion and religious art.
A new energy centre and faith garden have also been approved by the council at the site.