THE popular Wildheart Trust on Sandown seafront will now have the potential to expand.

The Isle of Wight Council's cabinet last night (Thursday) agreed to treat the animal sanctuary as special purchasers of a strip of land behind its home on Culver Parade, after 18 months of talks.

It means the trust will be first in line to buy the land as negotiations continue.

The land, which is between Browns Golf Course and the sanctuary, is owned by the council but is said to have limited potential for income generation and is considered to have no strategic value to the authority.

In a letter to the authority, the trust's chief operating officer Lawrence Bates, said the land has huge potential to allow it to expand its tourism offering and support its charitable activities.

Mr Bates said land is a key resource to them but with no room at the front, the strip of land at the back provides the opportunity to grow and develop the charity so it can continue to support the community and its rescued animals for years to come.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Speaking at the meeting yesterday, Cllr Julie Jones-Evans, cabinet member for regeneration, said the Wildheart Trust is a fixture of the Island's tourism offer.

She reminisced about the old pictures of tigers on the beach, and said it had made Sandown famous.

She added: "I am very happy to further negotiations and treat them as special purchasers so they can grow their business and help grow our tourism offer on the Island."