EXCITING plans to transform and restore part of Walton Hall and Gardens have moved closer after a major funding bid boost.

Warrington Borough Council worked with partners Myerscough College, Walton Lea Partnership and the Friends of Walton Estate to secure resources for initial support from the National Lottery via the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The bid requested £2 million from the HLF, with the council set to supplement it with £1.5 million from capital funds.

The stable yard, once occupied by Lady Daresbury's prized Kerry cattle, will become classrooms and offices, with the historic conservatory and vinery used as teaching, growing and display space.

The subjects taught at the new learning centre will include horticulture and animal care, with students carrying out project work on the Walton Estate and in the children's zoo as part of their course.

A key part of the project will be to reopen the conservatory area to visitors.

Part of the main conservatory will be a public space where visitors can learn about the horticultural heritage of the site and see development and training work being undertaken.

Councillor Kate Hannon, executive member for leisure, community and culture, said: "We have worked very hard with our partners over the past year to bring forward this project vision, which continues our ongoing work to restore the Walton Estate."

The Friends of Walton Estate group started in 2001 with aims to enhance the estate, as well as working towards the rebuilding of the conservatory.

Chairman Malcolm Eldridge said: "The last five years of my life have been spent working towards this day and though there is a lot of work ahead we can now be confident about the future for the estate."