Ambitious plans for a £24m revamp and expansion of Wales’ most popular heritage attraction have taken a major step forward.
An outline planning application for a major makeover of St Fagans National History Museum was last week submitted to Cardiff council.
The plans form part of a £12m bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The Welsh Government has committed £6m and National Museum Wales will raise the remainder.
If they go ahead, the “Making History at St Fagans” project would be among the “most radical” in the Cardiff-based museum’s 63-year history.
The plans, first revealed in January, include renovating the heritage-listed main building by upgrading the visitor facilities and making space for two new permanent exhibitions.
A new environmentally-friendly building will rise up in the heart of the site and house a gallery covering the story of Wales from 230,000BC – the date of the earliest Neanderthal teeth found in the country – to the present, looking at the ways in which people have lived.
Two new historical structures based on archaeological remains will also be built – an Iron Age farmstead from Anglesey and “Llys Rhosyr” a 13th-century court of the Princes of Gwynedd.
This attraction will be based on foundations discovered in an archeological dig on Anglesey. Volunteers and students will help reconstruct the 90m-long hall, which will be built in woods at the south-west end of the site.
There also will be a brand-new building on the site of the current Celtic village, which will be moved to another site at the museum.
This building will house a “hands-on” exhibition looking at the relationship between humans and the environment and will use apprentices and volunteers to bring traditional skills back to life.
The HLF bid was submitted in March and an announcement on whether it was successful is expected by the end of July.
A spokesman for St Fagans National History Museum – which has about 600,000 visitors a year – said: “We’re ready to start on the work as soon as we know if we’ve received the money or not.
“The redevelopment is a five-year project. If all goes according to plan, we hope to reopen the main building and new galleries in 2016.”
According to Welsh Government figures, St Fagans is the third most visited tourist attraction in Wales with 610,200 visitors in 2010. The application predicts visitor numbers will increase 25% to over 800,000 within two years of the project’s completion.
Construction is expected to create an extra 58 jobs, with plans for 33 new jobs at the museum once the works are completed.