A WILDLIFE haven in Weymouth will share in a £650,000 grant to boost nature projects in Dorset.

The RSPB has secured the money to benefit the county economy from the government's Coastal Communities Fund.

Most of it will be used to build a new visitor centre at the charity's Purbeck reserve at Arne near Wareham.

Some funding will also boost facilities at the Wild Weymouth Discovery Centre at Radipole Lake.

RSPB Project Manager in Dorset Sarah Webb said this would include adding to the existing centre by creating a large outside terraced area where new activities can be held, and expanding the cafe outside.

Radipole Lake is on the country's premier bird-watching sites. It is unique in Britain as it is in an urban setting and is one of the most important sites for migrating birds.

Hundreds of education events for experts and families are held there every year and the funding means the programme can be expanded and new volunteering opportunities can be developed, particularly for young unemployed people. The money will build on the Heritage Lottery Fund projects to enhance the reserve.

New jobs will be created at Arne with the building of the visitor centre and two additional RSPB Dorset-wide posts will be created.

Sarah Webb said: “This grant is a huge boost for projects for the community and wildlife that we've been fundraising for.

“It's great to see Dorset's wildlife assets recognised for their potential to boost the year-round economy and create jobs.”

She added: “We are really looking forward to starting work on improving facilities at Arne and Radipole, and working with partners and volunteers in Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch to develop more opportunities for people to get out and connected with nature.”

President of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ian Girling said: “Dorset's outstanding wildlife is one of its greatest natural assets. These new facilities will help to attract more visitors to the area, helping local businesses and boosting Dorset's economy.”

Fund to boost seaside communities

THE nature reserves are among 50 Coastal Communities Fund winners around the country announced today sharing a £64 million pot.

The fund was created to direct regeneration investment to seaside communities to help rebalance local economies, reduce unemployment and create new work opportunities for young people from the local area.

The fund has already supported more than 100 projects in the first two years delivering more than 4,000 jobs and over 1,000 apprenticeships.