Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Thursday, 12 June 2008 17:46 UK

6m for Giant's Causeway project

Proposed visitors centre
The centre could be open by 2011

Plans to build a 18m visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway have been submitted by the National Trust.

The controversial project at the World Heritage Site in County Antrim is to receive 6m investment from the trust.

The trust has asked the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for a grant of 9m towards the project.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said she would give the application urgent attention.

They hope to get planning approval by Christmas and said the new centre should be opened by the summer of 2010.

Last year, Ms Foster, the then environment minister, came under fire when she said she was "minded" to let private developer Seymour Sweeney rebuild a centre at the World Heritage Site.

However, his application was turned down by Planning Service. He has since launched an appeal.

The trust's Northern Ireland director, Hilary McGrady, said: "The trust, in partnership with Moyle District Council, has made enormous progress since last November.

"We are confident and determined to deliver visitor facilities which will enhance tourism and benefit the local area and indeed everyone in Northern Ireland."

Ms McGrady said the trust's ability to lever other funding sources would mean the cost to government and the tax-payer "looks set to be less than half of the 21m previously anticipated".

Giant's Causeway
The National Trust and Moyle Council will provide funds

"Key to all of this is that this investment will ensure that the Giant's Causeway visitor facilities remain in public ownership," she said.

Subject to planning approval by the end of 2008, funding being in place and tendering being completed, the trust hopes to be on site by autumn 2009 with the new visitor centre open by spring 2011.

The previous visitor centre burned down in 2000 and a temporary building has been used since then.

If planning permission is granted, the National Trust will build a design by Dublin architects who won an International Design Competition in 2005.

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