THE bid to transform a late poet's former home into a visitor attraction could be greatly boosted by a £500,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Members of the Norman Nicholson Society have submitted an application to the fund as part of their efforts to buy and renovate the house into a tourist attraction and centre for study and community activity.

Charlie Lambert, chairman of the Norman Nicholson Society, described the possible funding as "essential".

He said: "It has been a long process to reach this stage but I believe we have assembled a very strong case.

"Norman Nicholson is becoming increasingly recognised as a poet who was ahead of his time in his writing about the environment and community issues.

"His work illustrates and preserves so much of the industrial heritage of not just Millom, but the whole of Cumbria.

"His is the story of how the 20th century treated the entire north of England.

"I am grateful to the many people who have helped us to get this far, especially the society's working group. A lot of hard work has gone into this."

Born in 1914, Mr Nicholson lived his entire life at the home, on 14 St George's Terrace, in Millom, before his death in 1987.

The group also hope to host small group meetings and accommodation for scholars or a writer in residence.

They also hope to make the home the hub of a network of Nicholson locations in the town.

Earlier this year, the group vowed to continue with their plans despite a proposal to turn the building into a physiotherapy clinic.

In March, Copeland Borough Council received a change of use application after the Nicholson Coffee Shop closed.

The home was bought by society member Sue Dawson, with plans to relocate her son's, Graham Dawson, physiotherapy business.

Residents were able to have their say on the plans when a public consultation opened, with the council approving the proposal on April 6.

Speaking at the time, Mr Lambert said: "The project will continue with the same aims.

"Mrs Dawson has been a member of the society for a number of years and, looking to the future, her interest in Norman Nicholson and support of the society will be extremely useful.

"She will be very understanding of our interest in developing his former home and be able to co-operate with us in the future."

The group had previously been awarded almost £10,000 from the fund for a feasibility study to be carried out, which estimated the plans would cost a total of £646,000.

The society expects to receive a decision on their application, for £548,000, in September.

Mr Dawson declined to comment on the development.