TIVERTON'S Grand Western Canal Country Park has received a £240,000 tourism boost with the promise of a new, purpose-built visitor centre.

The centre will replace the existing temporary building at the Canal Basin, the Mid Devon Star can reveal.

The money has come from Devon County Council's 'Investing in Devon' Programme - cash generated from selling Exeter Airport.

Des Hannon, county councillor for Tiverton East and vice chairman of the canal's joint advisory committee, spearheaded the bid for funding.

He said: “The detailed design of the new building is still being discussed, but it will be a structure of very high quality, good enough to complement our canal and to promote our town.

“It's good news for our economy in hard times and will improve facilities in the basin for tourists and locals alike."

The environmentally sustainable building will be a modern, single story, timber clad design featuring a living roof, ground source heat pump and solar panels.

An archaeological survey will be carried out before construction begins to ensure no damage is done to the limekilns below, with the building being designed to sit lightly on the ground with no need for extensive excavations.

The new centre will provide information about the whole country park, including details about recreational activities and local canal related businesses, hopefully encouraging visitors to venture to other sections of the canal corridor.

The project is still in the early stages, with consultation and planning permission still required, but it is hoped that the new centre will be completed by the 40th anniversary of the park in 2011.