A NEW multi-million pound museum is set to be built at Kimmeridge to house a collection of Jurassic Coast fossils.

A £2.7 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has been given to the Kimmeridge Trust to develop the museum to showcase the life’s work of local collector Steve Etches.

The museum is planned to open in 2016 and will tell the story of life and death under the seas off Kimmeridge over 150 million years ago.

The Etches Collection contains over 2,000 late Jurassic Kimmeridgian specimens collected by Steve Etches over the last 30 years.

Steve, a resident of Kimmeridge, said: “At long last, after about 15 or 18 years of trying, we’re finally able to get going.

“It’s all about securing the collection for the foreseeable future and this will be the first purpose built museum on the Jurassic Coast.”

The new museum building will contain state of the art displays of Steve’s collection and it will also house his workshop where visitors will be able to see him at work conserving and preparing new specimens.

The Kimmeridge Trust is the body responsible for the development and construction of the museum, conserving and enhancing the collection and the operation of the museum once built.

John Woodward, project director, said: “This project will conserve and enhance this collection for the nation and provide new state of the art community facilities for Kimmeridge.”

Nerys Watts, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “The Etches Collection is truly extraordinary and gives us a comprehensive history of fossil collecting on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

“We’re delighted to be supporting these plans which will give the collection a state-of-the-art home as well as putting in place an exciting and varied range of activities and volunteer training designed to get more people involved and open up this collection for everyone to enjoy.”

As well as providing a new museum and educational facilities, the building will also provide the village with a much needed replacement for their village hall.

All of Steve’s collection will be available online for academic use as part of the museum’s extensive educational programme.

Professor Simon Conway Morris FRS, professor of evolutionary paleobiology, University of Cambridge, said: “There is no limit to my admiration of Steve Etches. His collection is a gem for the country and he is a national treasure.

“Rather than pursuing commercial return, he is always open and generous to all those who wish to see his collection, from schoolchildren to people like myself.”

Kimmeridge is a very important place in the world of geology as Kimmeridgian outcrops occur all over Europe and even form the oil producing bed of the North Sea.

The rocks at Kimmeridge Bay were once the floor of a deep, tropical sea rich in prehistoric life and were formed in the Jurassic period, over 150 million years ago.

Fossils occur regularly throughout the Kimmeridge Clay, particularly the shells of ammonites and bivalves. Less common remains include skeletal remains of marine reptiles and in extremely rare instances the bones of dinosaurs.