A MOTHBALLED eco-centre which was controversially closed down three years ago could be taken over by a charity.

The 26-acre Nature's World, a tourism centre at Ladgate Lane, Middlesbrough, closed in 2012 due to funding cuts and a fall in visitor numbers.

Since then volunteers have been going in to help maintain the secret gardens and deserted orchards there, collecting apples and donating some produce to homeless charities.

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The cost of securing the site has cost Middlesbrough Council about £60,000 a year.

Middlesbrough Council will consider a plan this Wednesday to move charity Middlesbrough Environment City (MEC) into the buildings at Nature's World when its lease runs out on its current office in April.

The former shop, reception area and exhibition hall at Nature's World would be refurbished and transformed into the charity's headquarters, and it would also use the allotment areas.

MEC supports sustainable ways of living and works closely with the council.

The council wants other community groups to consider using the site, for environmentally-friendly projects which will complement the work of the MEC.

A report of the council's executive sub-committee for property said: "MEC have requested a 15-year-lease on these facilities in order to allow sufficient time to attract future funding to invest in sustainable energy initiatives and associated environmental improvements.

"The council has received a number of other expressions of interest in the site, for example as joinery workshops for disabled servicemen, and a proposal for a commercial play facility.

"However, to date none of these proposals have led to the submission of a business case of a firm proposal. We continue to canvass interest in the remaining building on the site."

The charity will support the volunteers who have been helping to maintain the gardens at Nature's World.

Councillor Charlie Rooney, deputy mayor and Executive member for regeneration, said: “It has always been our aim to explore possible leisure and educational uses for parts of the former Nature’s World site in the short to medium term.

“This proposal will give Middlesbrough Environment City an ideal base from which to deliver environmental educational projects and health interventions in a safe and secure location.

“By retaining ownership of the site the council also has flexibility over any long-term strategic use for what is a considerable asset.”

Botanist David Bellamy officially opened Nature's World in 1992 and it once attracted 29,000 visitors a year.