THE award-winning Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre looks set to expand thanks to a £250,000 donation by the Wolfson Foundation.

The Discovery Centre has proved a huge hit with visitors to the University of Manchester’s world-famous Jodrell Bank Observatory since opening in 2011, attracting more than 140,000 people last year alone.

But with the centre’s schools education programme often oversubscribed and capacity stretched generally, bosses have been keen to explore how visitor numbers can be increased.

The Wolfson Foundation grant will pay towards a new Star Pavilion to complement the existing Planet and Space Pavilions.

“Visitor numbers to the Discovery Centre have exceeded all expectations, particularly for educational school visits, leading to pressure on current facilities,” said Centre Director Dr Teresa Anderson.

“The Star Pavilion will provide an outstanding and much-needed extension to the new science outreach facilities and nearly double our capacity for school visits, as well as providing more hands-on science for all our visitors.”

The Star Pavilion will be a single-storey, fully accessible building, situated adjacent to and designed to complement the existing Discovery Centre buildings.

It will provide the following features; purpose-built raked seating to allow for conversion to a large lecture theatre, which can be stored safely out of the way at other times; projection system to create an opportunity to see live images being sent back from spacecraft exploring aspects of our solar system; and functional areas, such as kitchen, first aid room, storage, offices and toilets.

The overall project, which has also received funding from the University, includes an extension to the highly popular café in the Planet Pavilion to provide cover for the decked, outdoor terrace and increase seating capacity.

Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: “Jodrell Bank remains an inspiration and the Wolfson Foundation is delighted to support the Discovery Centre in its important work – often sparking an interest in the natural world and science that lasts a lifetime.”

Plans for the new Star Pavilion have been submitted and, if approved, building work is due to start in the Spring.