A PROPOSED new heritage centre telling the story of a New Forest town could be open within months.

Campaigners are forging ahead with plans to turn part of New Milton railway station into a focal point for residents and visitors alike.

Said to be the first house built in the town, the two-storey property has stood empty for about ten years.

But New Milton Town Council and Milton Heritage Society are drawing up proposals to give it a new lease of life.

Daily Echo:

As reported in the Daily Echo, proposals to turn the building into a museum and heritage centre have been given the go-ahead by New Forest District Council.

The conversion is due to begin in earnest once drawings and descriptions of the proposed works have been approved by Network Rail.

Campaigners say the free-to-enter facility could be open to the public from April next year.

Council chiefs have signed a 12-year lease with South Western Railway, which has agreed to charge the authority a peppercorn rent.

The project has been dubbed No 1 New Milton because the station was originally surrounded by open countryside. The rest of the town grew up around it.

Daily Echo:

One of the people who supported the application to convert the building was Alan Watson, chairman of New Milton Residents' Association.

In a letter to the district council he said: "The heritage centre will be a valuable asset to residents and the thousands of visitors who come to New Milton.

"It will be an ideal repository for the mass of historical information which has been collected from a variety of sources and which needs to be preserved for us and for future generations."

Exhibits will be displayed on the ground floor and an upstairs room will be turned into a learning centre used by schools and youth groups.

Part of the attraction will outline the early history of the area through to the arrival of the railway in 1886. Other sections will chronicle the years leading up to the end of the First World War, plus the period from the 1920s to the present day.

The station, originally about a mile from what was then a village called Milton, led to the development of the town of New Milton.

A town council spokesman said: "When it was built in 1886 it was in the middle of the countryside."