A modern row is brewing on the site where one of the most famous battles in history took place almost 1,000 years ago.

A £2.3 million plan to boost flagging visitor numbers at Battle Abbey has angered the town's historical society.

English Heritage wants to build a visitors' centre, cafe and toilets in the grounds of the ancient monument, which was built by William the Conqueror on the site where his invading Norman troops defeated King Harold's Saxon army at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Neil Clephane-Cameron, Battle and District Historical Society secretary, said: "English Heritage has pushed this plan through without consultation.

"It is a totally unsuitable site for what they are suggesting and does not befit a monument of such immense importance."

Visitor numbers at the attraction have dropped from 160,000 last year to 143,000.

English Heritage hopes the development will stop the decline and attract more visitors to Battle.

It is seeking planning permission for building inside the Abbey grounds.

It would include a new auditorium showing an interactive presentation of the Norman invasion, along with the toilet and cafe facilities.

The plan has been approved by Rother District Council but must get the go-ahead from the Heritage Secretary because of the historically-sensitive land.

English Heritage operations director Tracey Wahdan said: "Battle Abbey is one of our finest properties but has seriously lacked adequate visitor facilities for some years.

"Countless visitor surveys have highlighted the poorly designed exhibition and interpretation area and inappropriately located toilets and lack of catering facilities.

"We believe that with easier disabled access and greater visitor comfort people will find their trip to Battle Abbey a truly memorable experience."