The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre reaches a historic milestone after receiving the official green light to move into the construction phase.
Northumberland National Park Authority Members overwhelmingly approved the decision to move forward with the £14.8m development, after agreeing cost proposals put forward by the contractors appointed for the scheme.
Sir Robert McAlpine has been announced as The Sill construction team, and will work closely alongside the core design team – including architects Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall (JDDK); planners Cundall; landscape architects Glen Kemp; interpretation designers, Bright 3D; Structural and Civil Engineers, Patrick Parsons Limited; and project managers, Gardiner and Theobold. In keeping with the heritage and environment of Northumberland National Park’s treasured landscapes, every care and attention to detail will be taken to ensure the project lives up to its status as a building that is both inspired by the landscape and of the landscape.
Construction is set to begin at the Once Brewed site later this month, starting with demolition of the current National Park Visitors’ Centre and Youth Hostel at the site. Demolition is expected to take around six weeks. Temporary National Park visitor information and other facilities, including hot drinks, will be provided from Walltown from now, as well as the Twice Brewed Inn from the end of September. Visitors to Twice Brewed will be able to access National Park tourist information, along with local crafts and produce previously sold at Once Brewed. During the construction period, people can also look forward to trial activities and events which will be hosted at nearby Walltown.
Working in close partnership with Northumberland County Council, Military Road speed limits have already been reduced to 40mph near to the development, in response to concerns raised by local residents and businesses, and work is currently underway to improve the junction close to the site.
Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “I am delighted that we have taken the decision to proceed with this ambitious and innovative project. The Sill represents the largest scale initiative of its kind, in the history of not only Northumberland National Park Authority, but National Parks across the UK. Its main purpose is to open up Northumberland National Park and the surrounding areas to more people, helping them learn about and explore one of Britain’s finest landscapes. It will be open all year, offering a wide range of facilities including YHA accommodation, exhibition space, retail facilities and a café and restaurant. The Sill will, I believe, change how we as a National Park Authority does business and it will become a landmark asset for Northumberland and the North east.”
The construction phase alone is set to bring in more than 100 new jobs to the region each year. When The Sill is fully operational from Summer 2017, it is predicted it will deliver substantial economic benefits to the region with around £5m of additional visitor spending every year. The Sill’s Rural Growth Hub will support the development of rural enterprises, and the project will also offer a wide range of volunteering opportunities.
Northumberland National Park Chairman, Cllr Glen Sanderson, heralded this milestone as the start of an exciting future for Northumberland National Park and its partners. He said: “What we have witnessed today is one of the most remarkable and exciting decisions ever taken by our National Park Authority Members. It’s a sign of their true vision for the future and means we can push on into construction of The Sill – the UK’s first dedicated National Landscape Discovery Centre.
“I’m delighted to welcome Sir Robert McAlpine on board as our construction partner and we look forward to seeing the development come to life over the next 18 months.
“None of this would have been possible without the support of our funding partners, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, North East Rural Growth Fund, Northumberland County Council and a range of philanthropic donors. We are extremely grateful to them all, and everyone who has, and continues to support us on this journey, as we move one step closer to realising The Sill dream.”
Caroline White, Chief Executive at lead partner YHA (England and Wales) also expressed her delight. She said: “We are moving ever closer to the realisation of our dream to create a world-class Youth Hostel and visitor centre in the heart of Northumberland. YHA began 85 years ago, so it is truly significant that the construction of The Sill begins in our anniversary year. It is testament to the hard work and dedication of the NNPA Authority Members and partners that this nationally significant project is now a reality.”
Andrew McAlpine, Director, Sir Robert McAlpine, said: “Sir Robert McAlpine is proud to be working with the Northumberland National Park Authority to deliver this inspiring new building which as well as promoting understanding of some of our finest landscapes will provide significant economic benefits to the local community.”
The initiative has received widespread backing, including £7.8m in National Lottery funding already pledged by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) earlier this year.
Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we are delighted to support this landmark project which will create an incredible gateway for visitors to discover Northumberland National Park’s extraordinary heritage and unquestionable beauty. This decision takes us another step closer towards this goal, boosting the local economy and inspiring the new custodians of our heritage along the way.”
Councillor Val Tyler, cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at Northumberland County Council, said: “This is an important milestone for Northumberland, which will bring a whole host of benefits to the county, including significant opportunities for local businesses and rural enterprise while boosting our tourism offering.
“The Sill will play a key role in our Economic Growth Strategy and I’m delighted to see that it has been given the go-ahead, bringing with it prosperity and jobs for the county and the North East.”
Gillian Hall, North East LEP board member, said: “The go-ahead for the construction of The Sill will ensure visitors to Hadrian’s Wall get a 21st Century tourist experience at one of the world’s most significant historic Roman sites.
“The North East LEP is delighted to be able to support the development of the landscape discovery centre through the North East Rural Growth Network and welcomes the major financial boost The Sill will bring to the local economy.”
For more information about The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre, visit www.thesill.org.uk, find The Sill on Facebook or follow The Sill on Twitter @thesillproject
Any donations to the YHA (Youth hostel association) are welcome.