A PROJECT for a new building to welcome visitors to Westonbirt and restore the Grade I registered landscape at Westonbirt Arboretum, near Tetbury, has been awarded a grant of £500,000 by waste management company Biffa.

The Westonbirt project has been named as Cultural Facilities Flagship Project for the Biffa Award 2012 scheme.

Under the Landfill Tax Regulations, landfill operators such as Biffa Group Ltd are liable for taxes on waste deposited in landfill sites. The Landfill Communities Fund allows them to donate a percentage of their tax liability to projects working to improve communities living within the vicinity of landfill sites.

The £3.6-million Westonbirt project to improve facilities for visitors fulfils all the requirements under the scheme.

The grant will help fund educational areas of a new Welcome building planned for 2013.

The areas will display the history of the arboretum, showcase work taking place to research trees for the future and help direct visitors around the Westonbirt site.

Fundraising is being led by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and more than £2.8 million of the total has so far been raised.

The Forestry Commission's director at Westonbirt Arboretum, Simon Toomer, said this week: "With this generous grant we are now one step closer to realising our dreams through the Westonbirt Project.

"When people currently arrive at Westonbirt they are greeted at a tiny admissions booth, with no real sense of direction or importance of the arboretum they are about to enter.

"The developments planned as part of the project will enable visitors to park, pay on foot through the new Welcome building and find out all about the trees, history and what they can see before they venture off into the arboretum."

Cath Hare, Biffa Award acting programme manager, said: "The Biffa Award Flagship Scheme presents a unique opportunity for truly inspirational projects to really boost their capacity and reach.

"We fund only two projects each year so competition is fierce. We look for regionally-significant projects which aim to have a real and lasting impact on the wider community they serve, and which are either culturally pioneering or aiming to make significant progress for biodiversity.

"The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum have developed an outstanding project that ticks all the boxes and more. The new Welcome building will help visitors to get the very best experience of this stunning and important cultural site."

Construction of the new Welcome building is planned for late 2013. The arboretum's team aim to begin work on the new car park in January 2013.

The new car park is part of the Grade I Registered landscape restoration. Parking will be moved to an area not protected by English Heritage and the current car park will be returned to a landscape of rare grasses and wildflowers.

For more information on the Westonbirt project go to westonbirtproject.co.uk