Proposed HPT Reception & Visitor Centre

Proposed Reception & Visitor Centre

Artist’s Impression

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Background

Highfield Park Trust was created in 1996 following the closure of Hill End and Cell Barnes hospitals to provide a diverse rural park for the benefit of the local community. The park has many interesting features including parkland with many mature specimen trees, sports pitches, woodland, a Mediterranean Garden with two petanque courts, a maze, rose gardens, ponds and orchards, all accessible by a network of footpaths and cycle ways.

Many people use the park including local residents, some with dogs and some without, sports clubs for football, archery and bootcamps, ‘health’ walkers and many more. The park also hosts a number of events including outdoor theatre and cinema, fetes, children’s events and outdoor activities for local schools.

The park is gradually becoming better known in the district. The Trust would like to build upon its successes so far and encourage more people to visit the park, but is restricted because there is no appropriate reception and visitor centre within the park to welcome people and provide a venue for activities.

The current park office is housed on the ground floor of West Lodge (a former two bedroomed gate house). The offices do not provide an inclusive environment, they are not readily accessible and lack suitable facilities for those with limited mobility.

Proposal

It is proposed to erect a purpose built reception and visitor centre on the current storage compound adjacent to the car park on the ‘Cell Barnes’ side of the park.

The purpose of the building is to create a flexible environment, ideally positioned to welcome an ever increasing number of visitors and provide a base from which they can then explore the many diverse and interesting features that Highfield Park has to offer.

The design is relatively simple with flexible offices to one side of a central meeting room and staff, storage and WC facilities to the other. A large toilet is provided for general use and is accessible from the main lobby. The building will be constructed such that it is harmonious within its setting and will have timber weather boarding externally, a simple gable roof supported by exposed purlins and clad with clay roof tiles. The front porch will provide cover, while at the rear of the meeting room is a glazed extension with French doors opening out onto the park rear which will allow it to be used for school parties and other events.

Building layout within the existing storage compound

The building will provide a new “hub” for the Trust to operate from and will also provide a focal point for information and a point of contact in case of emergencies. It will enable the Trust to expand on its charitable work since it would be able to host additional recreational events and further encourage school parties to use the Park. The meeting area in the centre of the building is planned to double as a classroom to support such purposes as well as providing a venue to host talks.

Full plans are on display at West Lodge

Planning Comments

Trustees are of course sensitive to their request for building in the Green Belt but believe that the proposed new reception building should be considered as an “appropriate development” for the following reasons:

  • The proposed new reception/visitor centre will become the new “hub” for the Highfield Park Trust and will be better suited to support the existing charitable work of the Trust, which includes the extensive management of wood and amenity land and the facilitation of outdoor recreational activity.
  • It will enable the Trust to be more accessible and inclusive and significantly enhance the general visitor experience for the increasing numbers of people who now come into the Park and provide a base from which they can explore the extensive grounds.
  • It would allow the Trust to expand its charitable work by hosting additional recreational events and develop its work with schools within and around the new building. The design is flexible enough to cater for future demands for small scale recreational activity, like evening clubs and meetings for local residents.
  • The proposed new reception/visitor centre will be sympathetic in design to its surroundings and the materials used will be harmonious within the park setting. It is considered that a modest building of this type would not affect the openness of the Green Belt and the site chosen is currently a storage compound and so will not remove open space within the park.

This is a unique opportunity for the Trust as no other location meets these specific criteria as well. It will be adjacent to the main car park and provide a natural entry point into the Park yet remains close to vital operational infrastructure. It has the opportunity to provide inclusive facilities and resources for the local community of all ages and abilities.

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