Construction starts on world-class Nottinghamshire planetarium
An official ground-breaking ceremony has taken place to celebrate the start of pivotal construction works for a state-of-the-art science and discovery centre and a new planetarium at Sherwood Observatory.
Mansfield & Sutton Astronomical Society (MSAS) supported by Ashfield District Council accelerated the delivery of this scheme through early contractor involvement with our delivery partner G F Tomlinson, through the SCAPE Venture framework.
Works on the Sutton-in-Ashfield centre began at the end of August 2023 and was marked with a ceremony at the observatory by representatives from G F Tomlinson, MSAS and Ashfield District Council. The project is due for completion in autumn 2024.
Repurposing disused land
Breathing life into a historic building, the development will include an exhibition hall, classrooms, a café and meeting rooms, as well as a state-of-the-art planetarium.
As part of this, a disused, underground Victorian reservoir on the site will be converted into the planetarium. The new building will be ten metres in diameter and accommodate up to 60 people to provide a multi-functional exhibition space for the observatory, and additional teaching spaces.
The planetarium will sit on top of the reservoir, and the delivery team will work carefully to maintain as many of the original and historical features as possible. This will include restoring intricate brick arches, while evolving the existing structure into a unique and functional building.
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 supporting the council’s wider growth aspirations for the region.
Group Chief Executive, SCAPE
Boosting tourism and the local economy
The construction of the planetarium and science discovery centre at Sherwood Observatory is one of the 16 projects being funded by the £62.6m 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 council wants Ashfield to be known as a place of innovation, somewhere that people are proud to be from, and want to visit. The planetarium and others benefiting from this funding, will transform the district, drive regeneration across local towns, and give Ashfield a new identity.
Schools, clubs, groups, businesses, and individuals will all benefit from having a cutting-edge facility in Ashfield; it will broaden horizons, educate and inspire, and add to the district’s visitor economy. It will have the potential to attract 20,000 visitors a year, invigorating the North Nottinghamshire economy, becoming a regional tourism hub for school groups as well as science and astronomy lovers.
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. It will play a key part in inspiring young people about the wonder and science of space, and increase visitor footfall, becoming a place of learning and enjoyment for many years to come.
Managing Director, G F Tomlinson
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. It is hoped the centre will create a pipeline of talented and motivated people interested in STEM who will duly develop the skills needed by Ashfield businesses and the wider region.
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