Lyme Regis Museum has the potential to become a world class centre for fossils and palaeontology – but it needs more space to do it.

Museum bosses say they are still committed to extending the building as visitor numbers have soared to around 25,000 a year.

Trustees are proposing a £4m extension, but their plans depend on being able to use land owned by Lyme Regis Town Council.

Curator Mary Godwin said: “We think that Lyme Regis is to palaeontology and fossils what St Ives is to art and I do believe we ought to have a world class museum as St Ives does.

“It wouldn’t just be a world class museum of fossils, but also the artistic and cultural connections that Lyme Regis has.”

She added: “We are dependent on the town council land to be able to extend and have enough space to make such a major development worthwhile.”

It is proposed to build the new wing on the Guildhall car park, with the town council’s private parking area relocated to the higher level.

In 2006 the town council made an ‘in principle’ agreement for the museum Trust to lease the Guildhall car park.

Later that year, the project hit a stumbling block when the museum’s funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for more than £1m was rejected.

With the building now ‘bursting at the seams’, the trustees are ready to proceed with the project and have asked the town council to renew the ‘in principle’ agreement for use of its land.

In a report to the council, Mrs Godwin, chairman of the trustees Stephen Locke, and trustee Max Hebditch, said: “Our hope is that Lyme Regis Town Council will now renew its support for the broad development plans of the museum, specifically the use of the Guildhall car park, thereby enabling the trustees to move forward with the project.”

The town council will consider the request in relation to other property it owns in the area, currently occupied by the Marine Theatre offices and the Tourist Information Centre.

Town clerk Mike Lewis said: “Rather than considering this request in isolation, it may be an advantage to adopt a more holistic approach in considering the needs of not only the town council and the museum in the use of town council property but also the TIC and Marine Theatre, which each occupy adjacent areas.”

He added: “I think there could be some movement between these groups and the use of our spaces.

“We need to be clear about what the other organisations are going to do, perhaps before we commit ourselves to giving up the land.”