The new visitor hub is the most significant investment for Forestry England this year and shows how important Delamere Forest is as a visitor destination. It’s an important green space for people living in nearby cities and towns to come and enjoy, and these new facilities will really improve their experience.
Paddy Harrop | Forest Management Director for Central District including Delamere
Willmott Dixon were appointed through SCAPE Construction to deliver a new, eco-friendly, timber-framed visitor centre at Delamere Forest, in the North West of England.
The new centre features a café with upgraded facilities, accessibility improvements and a new car park for the more than 750,000 people that visit the forest each year.
Operated by Forestry England, Delamere Forest attracts visitors who come to run, walk, bike, horse ride, listen to live music or take part in sports events throughout the year.
As a result of restrictions due to Covid-19, the UK countryside has recently seen more visitors than ever. Access to places such as Delamere Forest has played a key role in supporting the wellbeing of local people during the pandemic, with thousands of people visiting the forest each week.
In light of this, the development of the new visitor centre became even more important by providing people with access to the forest to help benefit both their physical and mental health during this challenging time.
With handover of the visitor centre scheduled for summer 2020, building work had to be completed during lockdown.
To keep the site operational during the final few months of delivery, Willmott Dixon embedded Government-backed Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures into the project. A series of one-way systems were created, increased sanitation stations were introduced and lunch breaks were staggered to reduce crowding.
As a result of these safe working arrangements, the site was able to stay open during this difficult time.
The cutting-edge, eco-friendly and sustainable centre includes a new café with upgraded facilities, including more indoor and outdoor seating.
To further improve the experience of visitors to the forest, key accessibility improvements and a new car park with extra capacity and enhanced vehicle access to cater for busy days and popular events, like Forest Live concerts, were also delivered.
As part of the social value initiatives being delivered through the project, SCAPE and Willmott Dixon created a legacy garden together, whilst overall social value activities delivered a 19.7% social return on investment for Forestry England.
Sustainability was also key, with solar panels, a ground source heat pump, a sustainable drainage design and rainwater harvesting all incorporated into the build.
As part of the project, Forestry England’s long-term partner, Forest Holidays, has also started to create a new cabin location, giving visitors the opportunity to stay overnight in the heart of the forest.
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