A MAJOR project to expand the Scottish Seabird Centre is in line for a £3.5 million boost.
Ambitious plans to relaunch the popular North Berwick attraction as the National Marine Centre have been backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The new complex will build on the success of the five-star centre with additional education and visitor facilities, including a series of underwater cameras.
The HLF has pledged its “initial support” for a £3.5m bid for the project – and it has given £290,000 to develop the plans.
It is hoped the expansion will allow the charity to achieve more of its conservation and education objectives and improve facilities.
Tom Brock OBE, chief executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: “A massive thank you to HLF in supporting our vision. With their support we are closer to achieving what we know will be a great asset to Scotland.”
HLF’s endorsement for the project means that it meets its funding criteria. It is a major vote of confidence in the project, as it was in competition with other major proposals.
Now the Scottish Seabird Centre, which attracts more than a quarter of a million visits a year, has two years to submit full plans for the £3.5m sum.
Dame Seona Reid, deputy chairwoman of HLF and chairwoman of the committee for Scotland, said: “The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to give its initial support to this ambitious project which we hope will inspire people to look after Scotland’s amazing, and often hidden, marine heritage.”
The project will involve the extension and upgrade of the existing building to include a new education and interactive exhibition space.
The attraction – which currently supports more than 70 jobs – would increase in size and relaunch as the National Marine Centre.
A series of underwater cameras would allow visitors to observe marine life in the Forth, giving them the chance to see species such as dolphins in their natural habitat.
The centre is expected to provide a unique understanding of the eco-systems and diverse wildlife inhabiting the coastal waters of Scotland.
The underwater cameras would complement their existing CCTV network trained on the diverse bird populations of Bass Rock and Fidra Island.
Dolphin pods and other exotic sea mammals would also be visible through increased boat trips into the estuary.
The charity now plans to conduct further research and consult with the local community, visitors and potential funders.