Groundwork North East & Cumbria has been granted planning permission for its £1.3million Land of Oak & Iron Heritage Centre, to be built in Gateshead.
The Heritage Centre, which will be at Derwenthaugh Park at Winlaton Mill, is expected to be completed in 2018.The design reflects the shape of a water wheel and was inspired by Matthew Glover, a post graduate architecture student at Northumbria University. Matthew won a competition involving 35 students with his design being the most popular with local residents. His concept is based on the water wheels used by Ambrose Crowley’s world leading 17thCentury Iron Works which once existed nearby.
Following a groundswell of community support the Centre is predicted to attract more than 200,000 visitors each year. It will showcase the distinctive heritage of the Derwent Valley, which is at risk of being forgotten and features a café and shop specialising in local produce, exhibition space that celebrates the fascinating local heritage and small business incubation units.
There will also be opportunities for local volunteers to learn traditional woodwork skills by helping to make the bespoke furniture and internal fit out of the Centre.
The Centre will provide a welcome boost to the local economy by directly creating at least five new jobs to manage and run it, with a further 27 indirect jobs created via multipliers and through the supply chain. In addition, it will also support the creation of new jobs through its business incubator and generate £1million of related additional revenue in the local economy.
Kate Culverhouse, Chief Executive of Groundwork NE & Cumbria, said: “The Heritage Centre will be a fantastic addition to the heritage offering we have here in the North East. A story of pioneering industry will be told within the beautiful setting of the country park. Not only creating jobs and tourism opportunities, but also helping to regenerate the local economy by supporting new businesses to grow.
“The feedback and support we have had from the public, local businesses and Northumbria University has been astounding; we’re all very excited to break ground in 2017.”
Architecture Professor Paul Jones from Northumbria University is delighted that the scheme has taken another step forward. He said: ‘Students and Matthew in particular have benefitted tremendously from this authentic learning experience. It is fantastic that planning permission has been granted and that there is now a great chance of the Centre being built to Matthew’s original concept. This is a very important project for the region, not least because it will record the contribution that the Derwent Valley made to the industrial revolution.’
The project is still subject to funding; bids have been submitted with decisions expected later this year; Groundwork is also seeking charitable donations and sponsorship.