2 February 2015

Sill wins £7.8M HLF grant to open up Northumberland’s finest landscapes



There are celebrations all round today as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help more people explore and learn about the nation's finest countryside, has been awarded a grant of £7.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The Sill will become the country's first national landscape discovery centre, giving more people than ever before, the chance to experience the countryside's special and often hidden treasures.

It will revolutionise everyone's ability to find and experience nature and the great outdoors, inspiring, involving and engaging people from all walks of life in the natural and cultural heritage of Northumberland.

The Sill will deliver a comprehensive programme of interpretation, education, research and events that will inspire people to celebrate, value and conserve the unique natural and cultural heritage of the Northumberland landscape. It's set to attract more than 100,000 visitors each year, and will offer an all-weather and year-round facility that provides hostel accommodation, retail facilities and a café.

Both NNPA and YHA are celebrating the latest stage of all the hard work and dedication by the people and organisations involved in this flagship project. The partners hope this achievement will act as a springboard to help raise the remaining £2.2million funds needed to ensure the project reaches its full potential.

John Riddle, Chairman of Northumberland National Park Authority, hailed this moment as an historic one for the region. He said: "We are absolutely delighted by today's announcement. To receive such substantial HLF backing is a wonderful boost for the project and marks a very significant day for the North East."

Tony Gates, Chief Executive of the National Park Authority, claims the project will transform how people will learn about and explore our landscapes. He said: "The great outdoors is important to people, it enriches our lives, it makes us feel alive. The Sill will help people from all walks of life explore and learn about Britain's finest landscapes. Through this project, we will inspire the next generation of custodians, protecting the legacy of our stunning landscapes for the future. We are particularly keen to ensure young people benefit, with The Sill as our answer to the ipad in helping grab young peoples' attention.

"We're very grateful to the organisations and individuals who have supported the project in helping us get this far, it's been a real team effort and we will need their ongoing support to ensure The Sill delivers to its full potential and the maximum number of people benefit from a connection with our heritage."

Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: "With the famous Hadrian's Wall and much more besides on the doorstep, this new state-of-the-art discovery centre will become the perfect base from which to explore the national park's unquestionable beauty. The Heritage Lottery Fund's investment is also supporting a year-round programme of exhibitions and activities that will ensure that visitors are tempted back to Northumberland again and again, providing a much-needed boost to the local economy."

Caroline White, Chief Executive of YHA (England and Wales) said: "The announcement of funding from HLF is a huge step forward for the Sill. The HLF funding, together with that from other providers, has closed the funding gap significantly. It is immensely exciting that we are now within touching distance of transforming the current YHA site at Once Brewed and creating a nationally significant landscape discovery centre which will ensure that young people can continue to enjoy exciting outdoor experiences in Northumberland National Park."

Councillor Grant Davey, Leader of Northumberland County Council, said: "This is fantastic news for Northumberland. The Sill will become a superb asset to help us achieve our ambitions to attract even more visitors to the county each year.  We've worked closely with Northumberland National Park to support the development of the project and I'm delighted that the hard work of all the partners has paid off.  Its great news for the whole of Northumberland and means more than 100 new jobs will be created.  The economic and community benefits will be transformational through providing new training, skills, business growth and volunteering opportunities."

The HLF grant will help to secure the future of this ambitious project, with construction expected to begin on site later this year. The activity programme will start in autumn 2015 and the Sill national landscape discovery building will open its doors to the public in June 2017.

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