Pre-construction work has officially started on the multi-million-pound planetarium at Sherwood Observatory Science Discovery Centre in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.
Leading midlands-based contractor G F Tomlinson has been appointed through Scape’s Beyond the Public Sector framework to complete pre-construction design and planning, with the state-of-the-art centre expected to be completed and fully operational by autumn 2024.
Working alongside SCAPE, one of the UK’s leading public sector procurement authorities, has enabled the client to accelerate the delivery of the scheme through early contractor involvement with G F Tomlinson.
The development will transform a disused underground Victorian reservoir, which was dug in the 1880s, into an education centre for school and group visits, and will feature an exhibition hall, classrooms, a café and meeting rooms, as well as the state-of-the-art planetarium.
The reservoir will have a new structure built above it, to increase the useable space and transform the existing structure into a habitable and unique building. The scheme aims to inspire interest and careers in STEM learning, as well as increasing footfall to the local area.
Plans were submitted to Ashfield District Council by Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society, in November, following aspirations to increase annual visitor numbers from 3,000 to 20,000.
Funds for the project have recently been awarded through a contribution of £3.1 million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund Round 2. Further funds were also secured through the council’s £62.6 million Towns Fund.
Craig Stopper, framework construction manager at G F Tomlinson, said: “We feel very privileged to have been chosen as the main contractor, by Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society, to lead on such an exciting and unique project, and what promises to be a pivotal tourism and educational attraction.
“The multi-million-pound scheme will attract thousands of visitors to the region and raise not only awareness of the local area and the history of the site, but STEM career opportunities for future generations. We very much look forward to bringing the vision for this planetarium to life.”
Mark Robinson, group chief executive at SCAPE, said: “The Sherwood Observatory will not only breathe new life into the local community but will provide exceptional social value by inspiring interest in STEM learning careers.
“We are, therefore, delighted to be working closely on such a special project with our partner, G F Tomlinson and Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society, via our SCAPE Beyond the Public Sector Framework. Our delivery teams will be instrumental in ensuring efficiency, time and cost savings throughout.”
Dr Steve Wallace at Sherwood Observatory said: “We have been eagerly anticipating this moment for several years and it’s great to have reached the point where we are able have G F Tomlinson join the team. We believe that the young people in our area should be afforded the same opportunities for extracurricular enrichment as those from more affluent areas.
“The new Centre greatly increase the capacity of the observatory, to deliver outreach, and will help to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers from across the region, thereby supporting jobs growth and prosperity.”
Cllr Matthew Relf, executive lead member for regeneration and corporate transformation, said: “This is such a fantastic project that will help supercharge the astronomical society’s brilliant work on engaging young minds with STEM subjects, lighting a fire in our next generation of scientists and engineers.
“It’s one of the many interconnected projects – covering health and wellbeing, tourism, skills and jobs and urban regeneration – that are coming to Ashfield over the next few years as part of our ambitious regeneration programme to turn around decades of neglect. These projects will benefit not just Ashfield but the broader region too. Yet another great reason to Discover Ashfield.”
To find out more about G F Tomlinson and its projects, please visit: https://gftomlinson.co.uk
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