THE SSPCA has unveiled plans to transform a former colliery building in the Wee County into an education hub to bring troubled children closer to nature.

A bold £850,000 project would see the former Devon Colliery's Beam Engine House, near the National Wildlife Rescue Centre at Fishcross, transformed to showcase the work the charity does.

Plans are set for interactive touch screens, digital games, information boards and physical props, plus camera links which would enable them to view animals in recovery following treatment and track their release back to the wild.

Gilly Mendes Ferreira, head of education, policy and research at the Scottish SPCA, said full plans for the site have now been drawn up and a major crowdfunding drive will be launched within weeks.

"We have big ambitions for the site," she told The Herald. "We have a working wildlife hospital on the site which handles over 10,000 animals a year including birds, seals, otters, badgers and many others.

"But people still think of us as the 'animal cruelty' charity. It makes sense for us to educate people about what we do, about nature and the environment."

She added: "Children are no longer playing outdoors, but there are mental health benefits to being outside and around nature.

"We want to capture that and offer fun activities, family days, holiday clubs."

Perhaps the most crucial element of the centre's work, she continued, will be with vulnerable young people who have either already harmed animals or are at risk of developing negative attitudes to them.

Mrs Mendes Ferreira mentioned the Animal Guardian's programme, launched in 2018, for primary-aged children who have shown negative behaviour towards animals.

She added: "Our Animal Guardians programme is already working with children referred to us because they have shown concerning behaviours towards animals, some may have sadly have killed animals for different reasons.

"We want to offer a trauma facility, where young people who have not had the opportunity to be outdoors and have fun can have different types of experiences, and offer family groups space to bond with each other."

Work to create the new centre is to be split into two phases; the first phase will see the building which once housed the Devon Colliery's beam pumping engine reborn at a cost of around £100,000.

The second phase will see a new custom-designed classroom which is expected to cost the charity a further £750,000.

The colliery closed in 1960, however, the Beam Engine House was restored in 1993 and is one of the few surviving beam engines in Scotland.

Mrs Mendes Ferreira said it is hoped the education centre will also revive interest in the area's industrial heritage.

She added: "The Beam Engine House has been sitting there not doing very much.

"Clackmannan Heritage Trust has given us lots of information about the history of the site and we want to capture that too, so people will know about the architecture, engineering and industrial heritage."