pounds 1. 5m expansion at top hotel; New centre will revive village's ancient name.
WORK has started on a pounds 1. 5m conference and banqueting suite at Wirral's only four-star hotel.
The expansion at Thornton Hall will double the size of existing facilities and is expected to create up to 50 new jobs.
It is part of a pounds 3m expansion at the family-run business in the picturesque village of Thornton Hough.
The extension is expected to open in June next year.
Andrew Thompson, group managing director, said: ``The new suite, and our other improvements and plans, now help us to compete equally with the many city centre hotels opening in Liverpool and Chester, just 20 minutes or so driving time away but we have the bonus of a wonderful garden village setting. ''
The suite, which will be used for functions as well as business meetings, has taken five years to plan.
Wirral Council gave permission for it in 2001, but they were referred to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions because the development involves green belt land. The DETR believed there were ``very special'' circumstances and gave the expansion the go-ahead.
The centre will be called Torintone -- the name of the village in the Domesday Book -- and will cater for up to 400 people.
It will be fitted with the latest electronic aids including screens and an audio system to meet modern-day demands and will divide into a variety of sound-proof room sizes for separate events.
In the past two years Thornton Hall has opened a luxury penthouse suite in the original building, added a hair salon to its health club and beauty spa, built a garden pagoda for civil wedding ceremonies and refurbished its verandah bar.
Permission has just been granted for a further extension to the health club and more bedrooms are planned to meet growing demand.
Barrie Bradburn, owner of Thornton Hall, said: ``The work will greatly enhance the existing facilities at Thornton Hall which are constantly under pressure to provide for large-scale conferences and functions. ''
``Once complete, the centre will be one of the finest in Wirral and we will be able to cater for the growing demand for large accommodation.
``It will be one of the biggest in the area and will be able to cater for twice the number of delegates we can at present.
``We already have a long list of companies, both from the UK and overseas, who use our facilities.
``The new centre will be worth up to pounds 200, 000-a-year in additional revenue and it is important that money is spent in Wirral. ''