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£9.25m boost for Giant's Causeway plans

Plans for the development of a

new £18.5m visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland, have received a £9.25m boost from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. The funding announcement comes after the tourism agency reached an agreement with the National Trust (NT), which owns the attraction and plans to enhance the World Heritage Site's visitor experience. Dublin-based architects heneghan. peng are behind the designs for the new visitor centre, which has also received a £3m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £4m from the NT.

Work begins on Drayton Manor hotel

Construction work has begun on

the new hotel at the Drayton Manor Theme Park in Staffordshire. The new 150-room hotel is designed primarily to meet demand from visitors to the theme park, it having seen an upsurge in visitor numbers following the arrival of Thomas Land in 2008. Scheduled to open in the summer of 2011, the hotel will feature themed bedrooms, including ones from the Thomas and Friends series. Also on offer will be extensive conferencing and hospitality facilities, complementing those already at the theme park, plus two restaurants and a crèche.

Jersey museum set for repair work

Repair work is to be carried out

on the northern facade of Jersey's Maritime Museum in St Helier after a crack was discovered during an annual building survey. Housed within a former warehouse building, the Port of Jersey will undertake repairs to the 108-year-old section of wall as part of the scheme, which will take 12 weeks to complete.


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Merlin to take over Blackpool Tower

Plans include the UK's second Madame Tussauds and an "Eye"-branded attraction

By Martin Nash

Blackpool council has signed up Merlin Entertainments to manage the redevelopment and operations of the Blackpool Tower complex and Louis Tussauds Waxworks when it formally takes over the businesses later this year. A £10m council-funded

investment programme is scheduled to start this autumn, which will see a new Dungeon attraction added to the Tower complex, plus the development of the current observation platform into an 'Eye' branded experience including a 4D cinema preview show. The nearby Louis Tussauds

waxworks is to be converted into a second UK Madame Tussauds attraction with a planned opening date of Spring 2011. The first of the new attractions in the Tower complex

Blackpool Council will retain the ownership of the famous tower

is scheduled to open later in the year, with all the work complet- ed for early 2012. The new developments will

join Merlin's existing association with Blackpool, the Sea Life centre on the town's promenade close to the complex. The current restoration programme for Blackpool Tower itself – a listed building – will also continue, with the site's ballroom and circus being

Revamp for Abingdon museum

By Martin Nash

Plans to give the historic County Hall Museum in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, a complete makeover are to go ahead following the award of a final grant of just over £1.7m by the Heritage Lottery Fund. To date, the project has been

awarded £210,000 in develop- ment funding, and a £50,000 project planning grant, making the total investment £1.97m. The Grade I listed building in

the town centre was construct- ed between 1678 and 1682, its dual role as market hall and Sessions House dating from when the town was included in the boundaries of the old county of Berkshire and played host to the local courts.

retained. Blackpool council estimates that the plans – part of a regeneration initiative covering the whole town – could bring in an extra 800,000 visitors every year. • Merlin also announced it

has secured a deal with Marvel Entertainment and Austria- based Kraftwerk Living Technologies to create a new 4D visitor experience at London's Madame Tussauds.

Council dismisses zoo complaints

North Somerset Council (NSC) has ruled that allegations of animal cruelty made against Noah's Ark Zoo Farm near Bristol are "grossly unfair". Inspectors from the council,

The County Hall Museum was built between 1678 and 1682

A popular local museum

created in the 1920s, it is home to a wide collection of local historical artefacts, archaeologi- cal finds, paintings and objects relating to the former MG Motors plant in the town. Abingdon Town Council

hopes to increase the museum's visitor figures from 20,000 per year to 30,000.

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which licenses the Wraxhall attraction, and two zoo inspectors carried out interviews with the proprietor and staff members as part of the probe into the claims. Zoo records were also

examined and animal enclosures inspected after the Captive Animal Protection Society (CAPS) accused Noah's Ark Zoo Farm of "serious animal welfare issues". NSC's executive member Peter Bryant, said that animals at the attraction are "generally" well looked after.

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