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Doomed Earth Centre to be reborn as schools activity centre

The abandoned Earth Centre in Doncaster, which featured buildings by Will Alsop, Bill Dunster and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, is to become an activity centre for school groups

Educational group Kingswood bought the site, which closed to the public seven years ago, for an undisclosed fee and now plans to transform it into a multi-million pound facility for children. The new centre will initially feature accommodation for 400 pupils and teachers, including an 1,000m² indoor activity and sports hall, ‘a high adrenaline ropes park’ for team building activities, plus classrooms for ICT, field studies and conferences.

The 20ha, £60 million Millennium Commission-backed environmental education centre in Conisbrough, South Yorkshire was shut in 2004 for failing to attract enough visitors.

Doncaster Council said Kingswood had agreed a ‘substantial subsidy’ for schools in the area to make the proposed site accessible to local children and young people (see video right).

Councillor Jonathan Wood, who is responsible for business and regeneration, said: ‘Throughout this process we have said that whoever takes on this site needs a business model that is sustainable without any injection of public money.’

‘The company will run the 50-acre site as a wholly private business, creating jobs and opportunities for local people.’

The site was put up for sale in October 2010.

Kingswood beat bids from, among others, ‘social enterprise’ developer Camberwell which was working with Arup and Leeds’ Architecture 2B on a research and enterprise facility.

The group could not confirm any details about the design team it was intending to work with.

Previous story (AJ 27.09.10)

New hope for Earth Centre revival

A ‘social enterprise’ developer has made a surprise bid to resurrect the abandoned Earth Centre in Doncaster, which closed in 2004

The Millennium Commission-backed environmental education centre, which featured buildings by Will Alsop, Bill Dunster and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, has been abandoned since going into administration six years ago.

Built on a former colliery site and opened in March 1999, the award-winning £60 million centre ‘consistently failed’ to reach its expected visitor numbers and a last-gasp bid by Dunster to convert it into ‘university of sustainability’ also failed.

Now Yorkshire-based social developer Camberwell hopes to revive the troubled 400ha ‘white elephant’ (AJ 11.11.04).

Development director Chris Hill has come up with outline plans for a new national science, technology and engineering centre dubbed ‘Life Park’.

He said: ‘It is [currently] like going into a ghost town.’

‘Our plans are to move away from the site as a visitor centre and instead see it as a research and enterprise facility.’

Although Hill is already working with Leeds’ Architecture 2B, the developer is interested in other architects to rework and extend existing buildings.

Hill added: ‘As a sustainability centre we will want lots of demonstration eco-projects – so we are open to ideas.’

Dunster, who designed the centre’s Conference Building,said: ‘Personally, we would do anything we could to make this work. I’m surprised it has taken so long – it was one of the great unfinished businesses of the millennium.’

Doncaster Council said it was not at a ‘stage of actively promoting’ redevelopment of the site and added it was still too early to reveal what it wanted to do with the centre.

Factfile

The centre was used in June 2007 for refugees whose homes had been damaged by severe flooding.

In mid-2008 the site has used by Cerberus Airsoft for use as a 160 acre ‘skirmish site’.

The site also featured as an important location in the remade version of the BBC television series Survivors, aired in December 2008. The centre was used again in 2009 for the second series of Survivors.

 

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