Celebrations in the snow as Northumberland National Park wins £7.8 million in Lottery funding

By Ben Miller | 04 February 2015

Accommodation, education facilities and window for businesses to be created at new learning centre

Click on the picture to launch

The guardians of Northumberland’s National Park say they will create a picturesque discovery centre with the allure of iPad-style technology after winning £7.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Representatives from the Park Authority, the Youth Hostel Association – the owners of on-site accommodation leaders say is in “very urgent” need of replacement – and Northumberland County Council celebrated in the snow with pictures of the models for The Sill, a long-mooted development which aims to engage young people with the spectacular surroundings and provide education, tourism, employment and business benefits for the region.

“I think we are now on the brink of something really special,” said Stuart Evans, who will now aim to raise another £2.2 million in funding to complete a project with an activity programme planned for this autumn and a potential opening date of June 2017.

“This is the announcement that we need to move forward. Just for example, in the last few years we’ve been trialling pilot activities that might run throughout the park in terms of exploring the landscape.

“All contractors working on The Sill are being asked to provide young people with a learning and work experience. We must use this project to improve learning.”

Building work could begin later this year.

“You’ll walk up one side of the roof, remembering that the roof is made from the actual landscape that we’re in now, so we’re trying to replicate the rocks,” said Evans, calling The Sill an “absolutely fantastic, really inspirational bit of architecture.”

“We’ll have the flowers and the fauna all popping out. People will walk up one side and be able to walk right into the North Pennines, turn the corner, turn back on yourself on the other side of the roof and you’re out looking at Hadrian’s Wall and into Northumberland National Park.”

John Riddle, the Chair of the Park Authority, said he expected The Sill to attract 50,000 visitors each year.

“The project’s gonna transform the site that we’re on now into a world-class visitor attraction,” he outlined.

“More importantly, what it’s going to do is provide opportunities for people from all backgrounds, of all abilities, to enjoy our finest landscapes.

“To receive such substantial HLF backing is a wonderful boost for the project and marks a very significant day for the North East.”

The plans are partly a response to research suggesting that visits to the country’s National Parks are declining among the young and less wealthy.

“Through this project we will inspire the next generation of custodians, protecting the legacy of our stunning landscapes for the future,” said Tony Gates, the Chief Executive of the Park Authority.

“We are particularly keen to ensure young people benefit, with The Sill as our answer to the ipad in helping grab young peoples’ attention.

“We’re very grateful to the organisations and individuals who have supported the project in helping us get this far.

“It’s been a real team effort and we will need their ongoing support to ensure The Sill delivers to its full potential and the maximum number of people benefit from a connection with our heritage.”

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