Last chance for Seven Sisters project
Tourism bosses behind a £1.1 million project to open up the historic Seven Sisters mines will get their last chance to impress lottery bosses when submitting detailed plans this month.
The scheme hinges on £800,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The HLF has agreed to support Dudley Council's bid in principle but will spend four months assessing the plans, before making a decision in December.
The council applied for HLF cash for work on the mines at Wrens Nest Nature Reserve, after missing out on the £50m People's Millions lottery jackpot.
Work is expected to start in May next year if funding is secured.
Under the plans a new visitor and learning centre would be created above the limestone caverns, which would be opened to the public once again having been fenced off and inaccessible for the last seven years.
There would also be improvements to entrances, paths, steps and fencing.
Tourist development officer Penny Russell said the proposals had been well received by residents.
She said: "We are just carrying out the last phase of public consultation and the community is really looking forward to this project.
"We should be in a position to submit our detailed plans this month, but when we do there's a four month HLF process.
"We would hope to have a decision in December at the very latest.
"Then it's just a case of getting contracts signed and the plan is we will be on site starting work next May."
The HLF agreed the project in principle in September last year and has set aside the £799,971 the council is seeking for the so-called 'Ripples Through Time' scheme.
The Cathedral Cavern beneath the reserve is about to be filled in with hundreds of tons of sand, to protect it from collapse.
The council wants to preserve the cavern so it can also eventually be opened up.
Engineers have been testing sand samples to make sure the sand they use to fill in the cavern is the right consistency, to ensure it can be pumped out again with water if the site is reopened in future.
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