THE bid to reopen Reading Abbey to the public has moved a stage closer as vital funding was secured today.

Following the approval of a £1.77m cash grant it is hoped the medieval centrepiece of the town's Abbey Quarter will once again welcome visitors by summer 2018.

Reading Borough Council praised the move as the money from the Heritage Lottery Fund gave the long-standing project the boost it needed.

The authority will also provide £1.38m worth of funding to bring back to life the historic site.

The current project timetable is as follows: • March 2016: Project starts with the procurement and appointment of the main contractors for the capital conservation and interpretation programmes.

• September 2016: Work starts on site and will take up to 2 years to complete.

• Summer 2018: The Abbey Ruins will be fully open to the public, complemented by a programme of events and activities Councillor Paul Gittings, lead member for culture, said: "In the Abbey Ruins, Reading boasts a site of national significance and today’s announcement means the Council will fulfil its long-standing ambition to open it up fully to the public, alongside an exciting programme of events and activities.

"I'd like to thank the HLF for recognising the unique history of the Abbey and the importance of the Reading Abbey Revealed project. This award is the culmination of years of planning on the part of the Council and allows vital conservation works to take place which will preserve the ruins for generations of people to explore and enjoy."

Councillor Tony Page, deputy council leader, said: "Reading's heritage deserves to be celebrated, as does a site of such historical significance in the heart of Reading. By opening it up to residents and visitors the Council hopes many more people will have the opportunity to appreciate the Abbey and its history.

"The council's vision for the Abbey Quarter has always been to pull together its significant historic sites, buildings and structures under a single, co-ordinated approach. The HLF award allows us to do that. The Council will now begin work to give Reading Abbey the prominence and platform it deserves."