PRINCE Charles has been asked to open a £700,000 treehouse complex that is taking shape in the New Forest.

Two classrooms-on-stilts are being built by the Beaulieubased Countryside Education Trust (CET), which teaches city kids about rural life.

Youngsters taking part in environmental studies will be able to move from one classroom to the other using a walkway 16ft above the ground.

Ten thousand children a year will use the facility, which is springing up in woodland behind the National Motor Museum.

CET director David Bridges said: "The new buildings will make an enormous difference to the trust.

"They will replace two dilapidated classrooms. One comprises four portable buildings bolted together and the other is a timber hut that is rotting away."

Designed by a 22-year-old architecture student, the study centre will boast a glass roof, solar panels, lookout areas and a biomass boiler.

CET members are hoping the eco-friendly project will receive the royal seal of approval.

Mr Bridges added: "Lord Montagu of Beaulieu has written to Prince Charles on my behalf. His diary is full until August but the project won't be finished until then.

"We're hoping the prince will agree to perform the opening ceremony from September onwards.

"The project is all about green architecture and getting children into the countryside. It should be right up his street."

The CET has already raised £610,000 towards the cost of the project. A large chunk of the cash has been provided by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), which has contributed more than £200,000.

"Our existing classrooms are used by 8,000 children a year and we are hoping the figure will rise to 10,000,"

added Mr Bridges.

The role of the trust would appear to be more important than ever.

New research published last September showed that more than one million city children had never been on a trip to the countryside.