Benefactor plans theme park for Bishop Auckland

Jonathan Ruffer invested £25m in Auckland Castle and gave it to a charitable trust; now he plans more spending Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

A businessman has backed plans for a new theme park near Auckland Castle.

Jonathan Ruffer is already well known in Bishop Auckland as the philanthropist, who invested £25m in the castle in 2012, transferring it to a charitable trust.

Now he is putting up another £2m for the project, called Eleven Arches, after a nearby bridge.

By 2016, a light show will illuminate the land next to the castle, telling the story of British history, in a similar way to the London Olympic opening ceremony. It will involve 600 local volunteers and will be a not-for-profit venture.

"The community is at the heart of the project. If you do a show with people being paid to do a show, what you have is a show. That's not the vision. "What we're trying to achieve is to bring people together behind a very inspiring pursuit, a joint pursuit."

By 2024, even more could be added, including a daytime theme park, which will be a commercial business and could create up to 300 jobs.

Eventually, it could bring 800,000 visitors to Bishop Auckland.

"Bishop Auckland is of a size where I think it is possible to make a difference to the whole community, and it is big enough that if you could, then one's done something really worthwhile."