Visitor centre proves its sustainability

Brockholes wetland and woodland, which boasts the first floating visitor centre, has been awarded BREEAM Outstanding status, signifying the exceptional sustainability credentials of this project in Preston, Lancashire.

The visitor centre at Brockholes is the first building of its kind in the UK to be awarded the highest level of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.)

The 106-hectare site is being transformed from a former gravel quarry into a wildlife-rich environmental attraction by a partnership of Northwest organisations, including Lancashire Wildlife Trust (who are the site owners and are leading the development), the Forestry Commission and the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), who is the primary funder of the project with over £8.6 million invested to purchase and develop Brockholes since 2006.

BREEAM has recognised the quality of the visitor centre in particular. This ground breaking design by RIBA award-winning Adam Khan Architect (supported by Max Fordham Building Services Engineers), includes a 2400sq m pontoon carrying a shop, restaurant, education and conference facilities, which floats on one of the site’s largest lakes. 

Meeting objectives

Constructed by Mansell Construction and Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering, the pontoon is a cellular reinforced concrete structure with polystyrene infills. Special measures have been taken in line with the sustainable objectives of the project, including the use of sustainable materials and environmental management.

Visitors will access the floating centre over a walkway bridge, where they will take in views right across the lake and beyond to the site’s diverse grassland, meadow and wetland habitats, play zones and spaces dedicated to the preservation of the very best examples of Lancashire wildlife.

Anne Selby, Chief Executive of The Lancashire Wildlife Trust said:

“We are thrilled to achieve the highest possible standard; the process of achieving BREEAM gave us the rigour needed to ensure a comprehensive approach and external verification. The way we are creating Brockholes reflects our values as an organisation. Brockholes will become a showcase for sustainable tourism and nature conservation across the UK.”

Transformation

Brockholes is just one of several brownfield sites to be transformed into thriving multi-use woodland environments under the Newlands programme. This £59 million NWDA and Forestry Commission partnership programme has created more than 450 hectares of new community woodland and habitats since 2003, and has had a specific focus on the sustainability of all its projects; considering long-term environmental management, buy-in from local communities and a commitment to create environments that are more attractive to investment.

Richard Tracey, Head of Environmental Quality at the NWDA said: “The transformation of Brockholes is a flagship example of just how to regenerate large areas of brownfield land. The standard that has been achieved is truly remarkable. We’re delighted, here at the Agency, that we’ve been able to work with partners on this project and proud of this highly regarded accolade.

“It will not only encourage wildlife to thrive, it will promote tourism in the region, drawing in visitors to experience the spectacular setting, whilst growing the economy at the same time. The design of the building is exceptional and a great example of how NWDA funding has helped to encourage innovative thinking to work towards achieving a low carbon future.”

The new North West natural visitor attraction hopes to attract over 250,000 people annually from across the UK. It will also provide a valuable resource for local communities to use, encouraging healthy, active lifestyles and increasing interaction with the natural environment.

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