Green light given to museum to take the first steps towards major £1.6million expansion scheme and put the town on the heritage map.

Major plans to expand Barnstaple’s museum could give a massive boost towards putting the town on the cultural map.

A £1.6million scheme is proposed to extend the museum towards the Long Bridge – its first major improvement for 25 years.

The project at the North Devon Council-owned attraction would create more display and storage space, as well as improve educational facilities, disabled access, the tea room and shop.

Manager Alison Mills and the new Barnstaple and North Devon Museum Development Trust are working on a £850,000 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for submission in March.

If successful, it is hoped the extension could be opened by March 2018 to give Barnstaple an all-weather attraction which, along with plans for a replica Elizabethan ship on the Strand, could help make the town heritage trail a cultural beacon for the region.

“The lottery bid shows the council is recognising the museum needs to be supported and developed for North Devon, and demonstrates their ongoing commitment,” said Alison.

“The displays are pretty ancient – they were set up in 1989 and are desperately in need of refreshing.

“The collection has grown and we have a stack of items relating to North Devon life, such as salmon boats on the Taw, the cobblers in Litchdon Street or the Brannam and Shapland factories.

“It’s part of a commitment to developing the town as a regional cultural centre.”

The museum is currently undergoing repairs and improvements to move officers from other NDC departments into the building.

On Tuesday the council executive approved the formation of an advisory forum to help develop and monitor the investment plans.

The trust is hosting an Open Evening at the museum on Thursday, January 22 at 6pm. Go along to find out more and how to get involved.