Page last updated at 08:02 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

Step forward for Causeway centre

Giant's Causeway - PA/Heritage Lottery Fund
The plans have been given initial backing

A step forward has been taken towards new visitor facilities at Northern Ireland's Giant's Causeway.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given initial backing for the National Trust's application for 3m.

HLF also awarded the Trust development funding of 37,500 to engage in a series of immediate activities.

Antrim Castle Gardens is to receive 3.35m, one of the largest grants the HLF has provided in Northern Ireland, in its latest round of funding.

The Trust's Director for Northern Ireland, Hilary McGrady said the initial support for the new centre was very good news.

"We are very grateful for the constructive initial support of the Heritage Lottery Fund; without that support it is very unlikely that the Trust would have been able to develop its exciting proposals for the Giant's Causeway," she said.

"This means we are one step closer to getting the funding package in place that will help ensure that the World Heritage Site is protected forever and that it becomes a truly world class destination.

"We remain hopeful that planning permission will be granted soon and are very hopeful that full HLF and NITB funding will be approved next year."

The Trust has submitted plans for an 18m visitor centre at the World Heritage Site in County Antrim, which is to receive 6m investment from the trust.

Legend has it the Irish giant Finn McCool built the causeway to cross the sea and fight a Scottish rival.

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.

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