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Plans to transform Kent colliery site into eco-park approved

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Planning permission has been granted for a £40 million scheme to regenerate a former colliery in Kent

The 121 hectare Betteshanger Sustainable Parks near Dover aims to create up to 1,100 jobs and is the first part of a £120 million project to rejuvenate the ‘economically deprived’ area.

Kent-based practice Hazle McCormack Young (HMY) has been named as executive architect for the £7.5 million sustainable energy visitor centre within the scheme, which will incorporate a mining heritage museum, green energy education complex, conference facilities, a shop and restaurant.

HMY were appointed by contractors Willmott Dixon as architects, picking up where Sheppard Robson left off with their 1.2 million m² masterplan for the colliery (see AJ 12.11.13).

Gordon Young, who is leading the project at HMY, told the AJ: ‘The long, low visitor centre building will reflect the site’s former operation as a mine. The charred timber cladding takes prescedence from the the dramatic black, charred houses in Dungeness and East Kent’.

The centre, which will offer bike rental and also include a biomass boiler as an ‘education tool’, will be a zero energy building designed to BREEAM excellent standard.

The Betteshanger colliery opened in the late 1920s and was the largest in Kent. It was also the last colliery in the county to shut, closing for good in 1989 after taking active part in the miners’ strikes in the 1970s and 1980s.

The site is currently used as a country park with a temporary visitor centre, but the new development aims to become a ‘global laboratory for green technology’, with the UK’s only mining heritage museum, set to attract over 150,000 visitors per year.

Betteshanger visitor centre (rear view)

Betteshanger visitor centre

The first phase of the scheme - due to be completed in Spring 2016 - involves creating the visitor centre and country park, with the business and commercial developments due to follow.

The second phase is set to include an education and enterprise complex with further extension of the park; this stage has yet to achieve planning.

Mark Robinson, group chief executive Scape, said: ‘This flagship project looks set to be a huge boost for the local economy and can become a model for other areas in the country which have been adversely affected by traditional industries moving away. Through creative thinking and hard work, Betteshanger can move boldly into the 21st century, making a more positive impact on the environment.

 

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