A CONTRACTOR will be appointed in the New Year to begin work on the £1.9million transformation of one of Rossendale’s major tourist attractions.

Rossendale Borough Council, in partnership with The Whitaker, in Rawtenstall, secured Heritage Lottery Funding in the summer to convert the former barn and stables.

The council also provided matched funding of £189,950.

Project manager Charlotte Steels said: “We will be doubling the space that we have and creating a vibrant cultural hub for Rossendale, a lot of the activities that go on here are limited by the space that we currently have.

“The tender for the work went out in December and we hope to appoint in February with the contractor beginning on site hopefully in March.

“It will be a short building phase and should be complete by Christmas 2020.

“Work will start with refurbishing the barn and stables to build a café, events and exhibition space and public facilities.

“In the main part of the museum we will be putting in a shop and renovating historic displays.

"We will be giving it a facelift with new signage and redecoration.

“The outside will be landscaped and there will be more planting carried out.”

A new reception will be created to link the buildings and a lift will ensure access to all the different levels.

Some of the facilities will be available for private hire.

Although five mature trees, including one that was diseased, were removed to facilitate the work, 10 established trees have been planted to recreate a tree-lined avenue that used to grow in the park.

The tree trunks have been retained and the wood will be sculpted and integrated into the new development.

As part of the redevelopment, two part-time roles are being created ­— community development and volunteer co-ordinator and heritage activities co-ordinator.

Charlotte added: “I have a passion for history and I know how important displays in The Whitaker are to local people who have grown up with them so we will be retaining the natural history sections, but we will bringing them up to date with modern interpretation.”

Once work is complete, there will be activities to bring all ages to venue.