Exciting £5.25m planetarium and science centre for Sutton moves step closer

An exciting project to build a new, state-of-the-art £5.25 million planetarium and science discovery centre in Sutton has moved a step closer.

By Richard Silverwood
Thursday, 9th December 2021, 11:21 am
An artist's impression of how the £5.25 million Sherwood Observatory at Sutton will look.
An artist's impression of how the £5.25 million Sherwood Observatory at Sutton will look.

The team at Sherwood Observatory has secured funding for the tourist attraction, which aims to inspire interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), and has also appointed a contractor.

About £2 million of the money required will come from the £62 million pot that was awarded to Ashfield from the government’s Towns Fund earlier this year.

The contractor will be the Edwinstowe-based construction company, Robert Woodhead Ltd, who will carry out the building work.

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Sherwood Observatory, off Coxmoor Road in Sutton, as it stands today. It is run by the Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society.

Now a planning application is to be submitted early in 2022, with work scheduled to start later next year.

A further £3 million still needs to be found for the project, but the centre could open in early 2024.

Project manager Steve Wallace said: “The centre will create a unique visitor-attraction and raise the profile of the Ashfield area significantly.

"It will focus on delivering STEM content in an exciting and hands-on way.

Another computer-generated image of the exciting plan for Sherwood Observatory at Sutton.

"It will also raise awareness of the opportunities in STEM careers and unlock an important aspect of jobs creation in our region.”

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.

The astronomical observatory sits on Coxmoor Road, near Coxmoor Golf Club, on one of the highest pieces of land in Nottinghamshire. Opened to the public in 1986, it is run by the Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society.

The ambitious project will turn a disused, underground Victorian reservoir on the site into a tourist attraction and education centre.

One of the striking designs for the new-look Sherwood Observatory, comprising a planetarium and science discovery centre.

The reservoir will be transformed into a multi-functional exhibition area, with teaching spaces, while preserving its existing architectural heritage features.

A planetarium, ten metres in diameter, accommodating 60 people per show, will sit on the reservoir’s roof.

It is set to become one of a handful of UK visitor-attractions to combine a planetarium with an observatory. It will have the potential to attract 20,000 visitors a year, invigorating the Sutton economy.

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The scheme, which has also attracted National Lottery funding and private donations, has been accelerated by the Nottingham-based Scape Construction, one of the UK’s leading procurement authorities.

Mark Robinson, group chief executive at Scape, said: “This project is a great example of how government funding can be channelled to breathe new life into local communities.

"Not only will it stimulate the economy but also inspire children and develop much-needed interest in STEM-based careers. We are proud to have helped the project through procurement.”

Leo Woodhead, director Robert Woodhead Ltd, said: “We are so pleased to have been appointed, through Scape, to build the new centre.

"It means we can bring our construction expertise to delivering an exceptional visitor-attraction at the earliest possible stage.”

Computer-generated images of how the planetarium and science centre will look have been produced.

The striking designs have been drawn up by Car Colston architects, Player Roberts Bell, while Eastwood company, HSP Consulting Engineers, will also join the design team.

The plans and designs have been presented to an audience of business and community leaders. A call has now been made for more businesses to back the project and provide the outstanding funding required to bring it to fruition.

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