Together with their partners Groundwork South and the School of Natural Building Hastings Borough Council have been awarded £890,000 towards building a new centre at Hastings Country Park.
The new visitor centre will be part of a major European funded project to construct public buildings from straw. Other countries involved in the project are Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and France. The aim of the project is to showcase sustainable building projects with reduced carbon footprints. The new visitor centre will be the first straw build building in the borough and will be a focus for new interpretation and events at the Country Park.
The partners submitted an initial expression of interest to Interreg North West Europe for the programme in February 2016 and were one of only 4 projects out of 79 applicants under the Low Carbon funding stream invited to submit a further, full application.
Providing a new visitor centre at Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve is a top priority for the council. Planning permission was granted in 2015 so the council is keen to progress with the project as soon as possible.
The Interreg (NWE) Programme is a transnational European Territorial Cooperation Programme funded by the European Commission. This grant is worth £540,000 to the council and its partner Groundwork South and £350,000 for the School of Natural Building, the UK’s lead organisation for straw buildings.
Councillor Colin Fitzgerald, the council’s new lead member for environment and place explained:
“This is absolutely fantastic news for the council. We have had an ambition to build a new centre at Hastings Country Park for a number of years and with our partners Groundwork South have been working on grant applications to realise this ambition. We hope to have the new centre open to the public early in 2018. The new centre will be a completely sustainable straw building; a fitting building for the country park and its visitors and one which our residents can rightly be proud of”.
Executive director of Groundwork, Gary Jacobs added:
“I’m thrilled that our partnership has been successful in securing this grant award despite the tough competition. We believe a first class nature reserve deserves a first class visitor centre. Working with the Friends of Hastings Country Park and the council we can now take forward this exciting opportunity to build one of the first public straw bale buildings in the UK which will help educate and inform local people and visitors of the truly amazing local heritage and wildlife on their doorstep.”
Eileen Sutherland from the School of Natural Building (SNaB) commented:
“This project is a significant milestone on the road to sustainable building across NW Europe.
By working with other European specialists, SNaB will deliver workforce skills and curriculum innovation in the field of Natural Building”