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An official ground-breaking ceremony has taken place to celebrate the start of pivotal construction works for a state-of-the-art Science & Discovery Centre and Planetarium at Sherwood Observatory in Sutton-in-Ashfield.
Led by midlands-based contractor, G F Tomlinson, and procured through SCAPE, one the UK’s leading procurement specialists, works on the centre began at the end of August and are due for completion autumn 2024.
By using SCAPE Construction, a direct award framework designed to drive collaboration, efficiency, time and cost savings, the client, Mansfield & Sutton Astronomical Society supported by Ashfield District Council, has accelerated the delivery of the scheme through early contractor involvement with G F Tomlinson.
The scheme involves the transformation of a disused underground Victorian reservoir into an education centre for school and group visits. The development will breathe new life into the historic building, which will feature an exhibition hall, classrooms, a café, and meeting rooms, as well as a state-of-the-art planetarium.
The facility aims to inspire interest and careers in STEM learning with a wraparound experience, as well as an aspiration to increase annual footfall to the location from 3,000 up to 20,000.
Works for the Science & Discovery centre include building a new structure above the reservoir to increase the useable space, keeping original and historical features such as intricate brick arches, while evolving the existing structure into a unique and functional building.
The construction of the Planetarium and Science Discovery Centre at Sherwood Observatory is one of the 16 projects being funded by the £62.6million Towns Deal which was secured by the Council from the Government in 2021. This project is also benefiting from Levelling Up funding and grants from the Wolfson Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation and National Lottery Heritage Fund. The scheme will also include solar panels, which are sponsored by Mansfield Building Society.
Representatives from G F Tomlinson, Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society and Ashfield District Council attended the ceremony at Sherwood Observatory, which was held on Friday 22 September.
Chris Flint, Managing Director at G F Tomlinson, said: “This incredible facility will provide an immersive and unique visitor experience for all ages in the heart of the Midlands, and G F Tomlinson is proud to be delivering it alongside Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society and other key stakeholders including Ashfield District Council.
“The Planetarium and Science Discovery Centre will play a key part in inspiring young people on both the wonder and science of space, and along with the increase in footfall of visitors to the new facility, will be a place of learning and enjoyment for many years to come.”
Mark Robinson, Group Chief Executive at SCAPE, said: “Enriching communities sits at the heart of every SCAPE project, and this is no exception. The new Planetarium will be a fantastic addition to the Observatory’s visitor experience, encouraging people of all ages to discover astrology, and the facility will support the council’s wider growth aspirations for region. G F Tomlinson will create additional social value by working with local businesses, schools, and residents to ensure the positive outcomes of this project are felt throughout the community for years to come.”
Cllr Jason Zadrozny, Leader of Ashfield District Council, said “We are over the moon to see the official start of work on this project. The observatory is already a great asset to the District, but with the new centre and planetarium it will become world-class. The importance of having access to a purpose-built science facility locally can’t be underestimated; allowing children and adults who can’t necessarily travel to London or Birmingham or Leicester the chance to experience the magic of space on their doorstep.”
Dr Steve Wallace, Planetarium Project Manager, said “Sherwood Observatory is dedicated to bridging the opportunity gap within our community. We will do this through an ambitious outreach programme that uses astronomy as a means of inspiring people of all ages to take an interest in STEM subjects and careers, particularly for disadvantaged young residents, through extracurricular activities and a world-class visitor attraction.
“Recognising that we can inspire the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs, we would love more businesses to get involved. The project team have developed a pledge list for those who share our vision, so please get in touch and add your name to this fantastic project.”
To find out more about G F Tomlinson and its projects, please visit: https://gftomlinson.co.uk.
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