A celebration was held to mark the start of construction on Northumberland’s National Landscape Discovery Centre.
The occasion was a celebration of the hard work and dedication of everyone who has helped The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre to get to this stage, and was attended by Northumberland National Park Authority’s staff and Members, partners, volunteers and trustees.
As the largest project so far undertaken by any UK National Park, The Sill’s main purpose is to open up Northumberland National Park and the surrounding areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to more people, helping them learn about and explore some of Britain’s finest landscapes. When it opens in 2017, it will offer all-weather, year-round facilities including YHA Youth Hostel accommodation, exciting exhibition spaces, an education and training programme, retail facilities and a café and restaurant.
The construction phase is set to bring in around 100 new jobs to the region, and when The Sill is fully operational, it is predicted it will deliver substantial economic benefits to the region with around £5m of additional visitor spending, every year. A Rural Growth Hub will support the development of rural enterprises, and offer a wide range of volunteering activities to strengthen local communities through increased participation opportunities.
Speaking at the celebration event, Northumberland National Park Authority Chairman, Councillor Glen Sanderson, said: “The beginning of construction work on The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre marks a truly exciting moment in Northumberland National Park’s history. It is especially rewarding to be able to celebrate with everyone who has helped us reach this key milestone in the development – our staff, Members, partners, funders – it’s been a collaborative effort to get to this stage. We’re very much looking forward to seeing the building and subsequent activities and events take shape over the coming months.”
Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “There’s something about being out in the wild and getting back to nature that lifts all our spirits; something many people today often miss out on. That’s what The Sill will do – it’ll be much more than a visitor attraction – it will enable us to reconnect with our landscapes and our heritage. I’m delighted to be celebrating that here.
“Northumberland National Park Authority is committed to supporting the living, evolving communities found across the area; we want the whole Park and beyond to thrive and initiatives like The Sill will help by bringing real economic benefits to our region.”
Sir Robert McAlpine is the contractor appointed to work on the construction phase, which is expected to take around 18 months. During this time, the National Park Centre and Youth Hostel at Once Brewed, is closed to visitors, with temporary facilities for the public housed at the nearby Twice Brewed Inn and Walltown Quarry.
Working alongside Sir Robert McAlpine are: architects, Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall (JDDK); planners Cundall; landscape architects, Glen Kemp; interpretation designers, Bright 3D; structural and civil engineers, Patrick Parsons 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.
Caroline White, Chief Executive at lead partner YHA (England and Wales) said: “This is an enormously exciting time for The Sill and YHA. It’s a fantastic way to end the year and it will be full steam ahead for this ground-breaking project for Northumberland National Park to open in 2017.”
Andrew McAlpine, Director at Sir Robert McAlpine, said: “As a responsible contractor, Sir Robert McAlpine is deeply committed to the natural environments and the communities we operate in. That’s why we are so proud to be playing our part in this wonderful project. As construction work starts, we look forward to building on the relationships established so far as we work with the rest of the team to deliver this important new asset for the North East.”
The initiative has received widespread backing, including £7.8m in funding pledged by the Heritage Lottery Fund earlier this year. Ivor Crowther, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund 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. We’re delighted to celebrate another step closer towards this goal, boosting the local economy and inspiring the new custodians of our heritage along the way.”
The Sill also received £1m from the North East Rural Growth Network Fund this year. Gillian Hall, Board member for the North East LEP, said: “The Rural Growth Fund is designed to support capital projects creating employment outside of our city conurbations. The Sill is a superb example of this and it is hugely positive to see work start on site. Hopefully this will encourage others to make an expression of interest in the Fund before the closing deadline of 22nd December.”
Northumberland County Council is also backing the initiative. Councillor Val Tyler, cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at Northumberland County Council said: “I am very pleased with the progress that has been made so far. This is a great example of a true partnership, where everybody has worked well together and I am looking forward to seeing the next stages of the development.
“The Sill will bring a whole host of economic benefits to the county and the north east.”