AMBITIOUS plans to transform a Black Country tourist attraction will become a reality after a million pound funding boost.

Dudley Canal Tunnel and Limestone Mines is set to start work on a £3m scheme to create a new visitor centre where people will be able to learn about the history and importance of the canal tunnels and mines.

Work on the building and a bridge to link the centre, called The Portal, with the nearby Black Country Living Museum, will get under way after a £1m grant from the European Regional Development Fund, which is managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The cash will be added to £989,200 grant the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and funding from the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, Wolfson Foundation, Dudley Canal Trust (Trips) Limited and the Dudley Canal Trust, to pay for the work.

Jeff Luesley, chairman of Dudley Canal Trust (Trips) Limited said: “This is fantastic news. It means we now have funding in place to build both phases of the development in one go.

“If all goes to plan we hope to start building this summer with completion twelve months later.

“This will be a major step towards the Dudley Council’s Castle Hill project which also includes Dudley Zoological Gardens and the Black Country Living Museum and enhances links with Wren’s Nest National Nature Reserve to create a major tourist venue of national importance.”

Communities minister, Baroness Stowell of Beeston MBE, said: “With the help of past investments from the programme, work is already well underway in this area of Dudley to develop the current visitor experience.

“These new improvements on the canals and mines take this one stage further to generate a huge benefit to the tourism offer and local economy.

“It is important that we are able to use European funding in this way to support local businesses and people and I am really pleased that we have been able to help make this happen.”