The vision for a new Avalon Marshes Centre has moved a step closer with the submission of the planning application to Mendip District Council.
The plans for the centre have evolved over the last year following an extensive consultation process involving local residents, volunteers, visitors, partner organisations and other stakeholders. The proposals are based on the outline plans displayed towards the end of last year, which have been developed further to ensure that they are feasible and sufficiently detailed for the planning application to be assessed.
A new main building, which brings together many of the functions currently spread across the site, is the focus of the design. It will be modern-looking but designed to be highly energy-efficient, to sit comfortably with its surroundings and to be flexible, so that it can be constructed in phases if necessary as resources become available. It will be located towards the back of the site overlooking a newly opened up green space with a pond, which in turn will lead on to a historic reconstructions area. This will house an Iron Age roundhouse, a Romano-British building and an Anglo-Saxon Hall. A central axis track will separate this area from the car park and provide the main link with a garden area which will be a focus for events and educational activities.
Securing the funding
The new centre will provide much improved facilities for conservation staff and volunteers who use the site as a base for managing the local nature reserves and for educational activities. It will also provide for visitors, including those coming to enjoy the centre itself and the surrounding Avalon Marshes area which is recognised internationally for its wildlife and archaeology. The next stage of the project will be to secure the funding to enable the centre to be constructed once planning approval is obtained.
Development officer David Evans said: “Local people, visitors, staff and volunteers have all given valuable input into plans for the centre and we look forward to their continued engagement as the project is taken forward to delivery. Ultimately the success of the centre will depend on it meeting the needs of all those who have an interest in it.”
The project has been developed by a partnership of Natural England, Somerset County Council, Somerset Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and the Hawk and Owl Trust, all of whom manage land or reserves in the area. The consultation stage of the design process, with its focus on community engagement, was largely funded by a grant from the Local Action for Rural Communities fund in the Somerset Levels and Moors, managed by Somerset County Council. The more detailed stage has been largely funded by Natural England, who is the applicant for the planning application, with Somerset Wildlife Trust acting as their agents.
Photograph of Great White Egret © Damian Waters