PLANS to help turn a historic monument into a tourist hub are now in motion.

The council aims to auction off the land surrounding the Iron Age fort of Barbury Castle, and use the cash from the sale to build a visitor centre.

The centre would cost around a £250,000 and would offer tourists a proper set of displays and information about the ancient monument.

At the moment, visitors must navigate muddy fields to reach the monument, but the scheme would see a proper path built, along with a cafe and information displays, similar to the centre at Hadrian’s Wall.

If all goes according to plan the centre could be built next year, and Nick Martin, the cabinet member in charge, says he does not intend to “hang around”.

Coun Martin (Con, Shaw and Nine Elms), in charge of Streetsmart and Parks, said: “The difference will be it will make it a more attractive place for people to visit, by virtue of the fact it wouldn’t just have a few toilets in a car park. Visitors can see representations of what life must have been like.

“The Ridgeway gets a lot of people from a big area already. People come to visit the White Horse at Uffington and Waylands Smithy. These are within 15 miles of Swindon.

“The point is people come to visit Barbury Castle already. This would just make it a more attractive place to visit, and put it on the map. Something for us to be proud of. It’s there, so let’s make the most of it.”

He said that the planned buildings would be out of sight of the national monument.

He likened the planned visitor centre to that situated at Hadrian’s Wall.

The plans have come to light in an item discussed last night at the council’s planning committee.

It shows the council is seeking outline planning permission for one of two parcels of land which it owns near the site.

The first 2,300 square metre parcel has an bungalow on it at the moment, and the permission being sought would allow this to be demolished and a new one built in its place.

Later on, permission is also going to be sought to build a bed-and-breakfast, a campsite, and pony trekking area on the second parcel of land next to it, which is about 6,350 square metres.

The aim is then to auction both sites and spend the money on the visitor centre.

It is hoped the land will be auctioned by the end of this year.