Monday 17 June 2024
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Work starts on £3 million Sherwood Observatory

Excitement is building as ground has now been broken on site ready for the creation of a new Planetarium and Science Discovery Centre at Sherwood Observatory, Sutton


To celebrate the occasion, Sir John Peace, Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Councillor Jason Zadrozny, Leader of Ashfield District Council; Theresa Hodgkinson, Chief Executive of Ashfield District Council; Martin Rigley, Chair of Discover Ashfield; and Liz Barrett OBE joined members of Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society at Sherwood Observatory on Friday 22 September for a ground-breaking ceremony. 


Initial works started at the end of August and the new centre is planned to be completed late 2024.

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The construction of the Planetarium and Science Discovery Centre at Sherwood Observatory is one of the 16 projects being funded by the £62.6million Towns Deal which was secured by the Council from the Government in 2021. 


Plans for the site are ambitious and aim to create a unique, world-class facility that will rival those elsewhere in the UK.

The observatory, on Coxmoor Road, sits alongside a Victorian subterranean reservoir which will be sympathetically transformed into an education and exhibition space.

The original features of the reservoir, such as the intricate brick arches, will be kept, preserving the history of the building. 


The Planetarium will be built on top of the reservoir and will immerse visitors in space with a wraparound experience.

Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society (MSAS), who own and run the observatory, currently deliver outreach programmes with local schools, group visits for adult and children’s groups, public open events and night schools and the new building will allow them to expand this valuable work in Ashfield and beyond and to cover a broader range of STEM subjects.


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.


Cllr Jason Zadrozny, Leader of Ashfield District Council, said:

“We are over the moon to see the official start of work on this project. The observatory is already a great asset to the District, but with the new centre and planetarium it will become world-class.

“The importance of having access to a purpose-built science facility locally can’t be underestimated; allowing children and adults who can’t necessarily travel to London or Birmingham or Leicester the chance to experience the magic of space on their doorstep. 


“This is just one of the twenty projects being funded by our Towns Deal and Future High Streets Fund in the District, which will transform the area, drive regeneration across our towns, and give Ashfield a new identity.

“We want Ashfield to be known as a place of innovation, somewhere people are proud to be from, and people want to visit, and the Planetarium and Science Discovery Centre will certainly put us on the map.” 


Dr Steve Wallace, Planetarium Project Manager, said:

“Sherwood Observatory is dedicated to bridging the opportunity gap within our community.

“We will do this through an ambitious outreach programme that uses astronomy as a means of inspiring people of all ages to take an interest in STEM subjects and careers, particularly for disadvantaged young residents, through extracurricular activities and a world-class visitor attraction.

“Recognising that we can inspire the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs, we would love more businesses to get involved. The project team have developed a pledge list for those who share our vision, so please get in touch and add your name to this fantastic project.”


Chris Flint, Managing Director at G F Tomlinson, said: “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 alongside Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society and other key stakeholders including Ashfield District Council.


“The Planetarium and Science Discovery Centre will play a key part in inspiring young people on both the wonder and science of space, and along with the increase in footfall of visitors to the new facility, will be a place of learning and enjoyment for many years to come.”


In January 2023, it was announced that £3.1million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund had been awarded to the project. Since then MSAS have been working to secure additional match funding and they have now secured contributions from The Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, and National Lottery Heritage Fund that total £850,000. 


The £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund invests in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, including regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.


The Town Deals programme aims to regenerate towns and deliver long-term economic and productivity growth. This is through investments in urban regeneration, digital and physical connectivity, skills, heritage and enterprise infrastructure. As of July 2021, DLUHC have offered Town Deals to all 101 places that submitted proposals, committing over £2.35bn of investment across c.700 projects nationwide.

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