Work to restore Sunderland Minster and the park to the south of it has hit the halfway mark and is on track to be completed by May.

The works are part of the package of city-wide public and private sector investment projects planned for Sunderland over the next five years, including £500m invested in the city centre.

In total, £1.9m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund has been awarded to the council for the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme which is set to run until August 2023.

As well as the Town Park makeover, current grant aided projects include the restoration works at The Peacock and The Dun Cow, working in partnership with the owners Leighton Management.

Altogether £700,000 is being invested in the Town Park and Churchyard projects with a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £460,000 plus match-funding of £240,000 from the council.

An improved city centre experience is one of the things Sunderland residents have said they want to see in future, and the works on Town Park are just one of the exciting developments underway in the city.

Among the projects currently in progress are the City Hall development on the former Vaux site with two more buildings to follow soon after; a 120-room Holiday Inn hotel on Keel Square; a 450-seater auditorium under construction in the city's Minster Quarter; a new business centre in the former River Wear Commissioners Building, as well as the STACK development and the Inn Collection Group's plan for a pub with rooms in Seaburn.

It is hoped that Town Park will provide a family-friendly space in the city that can be used by everyone for everything from relaxing in the sunshine to hosting Minster events.

When complete, the park will feature a central sensory garden with a reclaimed limestone wall, which has already been constructed on the footprint of the lost historic streets of Little Gate and South Gate.

New granite footpaths, street furniture and soft landscaping have already been added, while the steps leading to Low Row have been widened and resurfaced in granite. Interpretation panels will soon be added to explain the important history of the medieval settlement.

The south and east boundary walls around Sunderland Minster have been updated to tie in with the rejuvenated park. Sunderland-based stonemason Mason and Forster have rebuilt the walls, and new cast iron railings are currently being fabricated by Sunderland's Specialist Castings Ltd.

The next phase is to lay granite paving on Church Lane and repoint the eastern churchyard walls, which will require temporary closures of the footpath in February to enable the works to take place safely.

The project is a key feature of the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme, made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and backed by Sunderland City Council.

Councillor Rebecca Atkinson, the City Council's Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, said: "It's fantastic to see Town Park progressing, it has been a hidden gem for so long and I am delighted that it will soon be enjoyed by more people.

"The project at the park and the Minster, together with the works at the Peacock and the Dun Cow are all steps towards making the most of this historic part of our city."

Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, Councillor Kevin Johnston said: "When we add Bishopwearmouth to the bigger picture, we see how this City Council continues to work with local groups, developers and national organisations like the National Lottery, to leverage more improvements and more investment into our city.

"The new Town Park will create a focal point in the city centre, providing a space that everyone can enjoy, be proud of and take care of."

Sunderland City Council was awarded a total of £1.9m in funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme in 2018. This is matched with £300K partnership funding from the Council, contributing to the overall regeneration of the Minster Quarter.

The scheme operates until August 2023 providing grant assistance for works to historic buildings, hosting a range of events and activities to get residents involved in their local heritage, and undertaking the current works to Town Park

The townscape heritage area contains 11 listed buildings including the Grade II* listed Empire Theatre, Sunderland Minster, and the Peacock and Dun Cow Public Houses. These are all part of the Bishopwearmouth Conservation Area, which is one of the three original settlements that came together to form Sunderland, and one of the first parts of the city to be designated as a conservation area in 1969.