A major boost has been planned for one of the region's biggest tourist attractions.

Kew Gardens wants to build a £1.5 million visitor centre at its countryside offshoot, Wakehurst Place, near Ardingly.

The new centre should be completed by Easter next year if planning permission is granted.

Facilities would include a gift shop, plant centre, cafe and space for interpretation, orientation and admission services for the 300,000 visitors to the gardens each year.

The new centre would replace an existing gift shop inside the mansion.

Spokesman Trevor Butler said: "The increasing popularity of Wakehurst Place means it is now recognised as a major attraction in the area.

"We want to improve the visitor facilities to reflect more fully the sites status as home to a leading international conservation initiative.

"It will provide a showcase for communicating specific messages on matters such as British biodiversity and conservation."

Mr Butler said the centre would cause as little damage to the surrounding environment as possible.

He said: "We are mindful of the disruption any work would cause and also of the fact there are the South of England Showground and Ardingly Reservoir within the parish.

"Local residents in both Turners Hill and Ardingly were very patient during the construction of the Millennium Seed Bank building. This project is nothing like that scale."

The centre will be on the Old Stone Quarry site, which will mean it is easier for visitors to gain access to it and then on to the mansion and gardens.

Mr Butler said the area around the centre would be landscaped.

He said: "The aim is to give a sense of arrival worthy of the mansion and gardens and a positive first impression for the visitor."