The Suffolk Punch Trust are well on the way to raising enough money to start working on their “educational visitor attraction” to help preserve the rare horse breed — thanks to grants and generous donations from local people and businesses.

A total of £700,000 is needed for the project — which includes refurbishing the stables as well as a new visitor centre, car parks and access road.

So far the Trust have raised £570,000, and project director John Marsh is hoping to raise the remaining money in time for work to begin in March.

“I’m confident that in the next couple of months we will have raised enough money to begin building with the aim of opening the new centre in September,” said Mr Marsh.

This week The Waste Recycling Group gave the Trust a massive boost in the form of a £250,000 grant.

Mr Marsh added: “It’s fabulous news, without it we would have been struggling and now we’re not far off our target.”

Other grants have come in from the council, local business as well as people raising money through barn dances, balls and bazaars.

The Hollesley Bay Colony Stud on the Trust site has 30 Suffolk Punch horses and the money raised will help keep it in action.

Mr Marsh added: “Having a visitor centre is crucially important to raise money for the Trust. The stud is not self-supporting — it costs around £120,000 a year to run — and it is impossible to generate that money without visitor income. The new centre will deliver security for the future.”

The centre will be in 3 separate parts — a retail area, a heritage area and an education area.

Within the heritage area there will be artefacts and displays about the breed and rural life. The education area will be fitted out with lecture facilities — aimed at teaching groups of school children as well as adults from deprived and vulnerable sectors of society who can gain NVQs.