A NEW £1million “green-themed” visitor centre and specialist museum is to open at Wat Tyler Country Park, on the site of the current motorboat museum.

The boat museum, which has seen visitor numbers dwindle over the past few years, may be forced to close altogether to make way for the new facility.

The new centre will focus on green issues affecting Basildon, illustrating how the district has evolved from its rural beginnings, to becoming a market town and eventually a new town.

Basildon Council has secured almost £950,000 of Government money to build the facility as part of its ongoing regeneration of the 125-acre park.

It would see half of the existing motorboat museum transformed into the new green museum by Spring 2011.

The other half will go out to lease, but could still remain as a venue for powerboat enthusiasts if an interested party comes forward to take over the running from Basildon Council.

Although planning is still in the early stages, it could also house historical artefacts and other items of interest.

Councillor Kevin Blake, cabinet member responsible for leisure and the arts, said: “It will be another regional example of sustainable refurbishment of an old building at Wat Tyler.”

The new facility will also give schools and interested individuals access to an array of biological and geological records, as well as specimen collections held by the Essex Field Club.

The council stressed all options were still open regarding the remainder of the motorboat museum, which is now only visited by about 10 per cent of visitors to the park annually.