A new science discovery centre at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire is receiving £3.1m of kick-start funding.
The North West Development Agency and the Northwest European Regional Development Fund confirmed today that they will be providing the funding for the development of a new 10,000 sq ft Discovery Centre at The University of Manchester's popular tourist attraction.
The announcement coincides with confirmation that the redevelopment project has been granted planning permission by Cheshire East Council, meaning that work could start on site as soon as next month.
An investment of £2.1m will be made by the NWDA and £1m by ERDF. An additional £600,000 of funding will come from The University of Manchester.
The NWDA said that the new look centre is predicted to attract thousands of extra visitors to the Observatory every year and will help to generate an additional £26m for the regional economy over the next decade.
NWDA said the project includes a planet pavilion entrance building with an orientation centre and glass-walled café with views of the Lovell telescope, a space pavilion for exhibitions and events as well as an education space and landscaping for a new galaxy maze, based on the shape of the Milky Way, and a space garden.
The planet pavilion is set to open by the end of the year and all work will be completed by summer 2011. Capita Symonds is project managing the scheme, while Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios are the architects.
The first phase of the plans were submitted to Cheshire East Council in March and are part of a proposed and wider redevelopment of the visitor facilities.
The site is part of the university's School of Physics and Astronomy, which features the iconic 76-metre Lovell Telescope.
The famous telescope was the only one in the world during 1957 that was powerful enough to track the rocket that carried the Soviet satellite Sputnik into space.
Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, said: "Jodrell Bank is already an icon in the North West and a visitor attraction in its own right, but it has the potential to attract many more national and international visitors to the region. This investment will help create a richer, more inspiring visitor experience which is more fitting to this beacon of science and research."
Teresa Anderson, director of the Jodrell Bank visitor centre project, added: "Alongside redeveloping our facilities we will be taking the opportunity to revitalise our visitor programme, and look forward to welcoming lots of new people to Jodrell Bank in the future."
The NWDA said that the development has strong support from Sir Bernard Lovell, founder of the Jodrell Bank Observatory and creator of the Lovell Telescope, who lives nearby.
Sir Bernard said: "As the founder of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, I am delighted to hear that the development of new visitor facilities will go ahead.
"The very modern design that has been developed reflects the fact that the work of Jodrell Bank is at the forefront of research into astrophysics. The new facilities will pass on the spark of inspiration to the school pupils who are the scientists of the future. I look forward to this development going ahead very soon."
The NWDA added that the current visitor facilities will be kept open as much as possible as the development goes ahead and astronomers will continue to carry out observations and science work while the redevelopment work takes place.