The proposed development and enhancement of the Chesil Beach Centre is all set to go ahead in time for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games sailing events, following the award of £550,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
One million pound redevelopment
This gives the go-ahead for the £1m redevelopment of the existing interpretation room, kiosk and public toilets to provide exciting new interpretation facilities, education space, indoor café, forecourt area and boardwalk. Access and parking will be improved, with a new car park entrance and general accessibility for people with disabilities.
From a dream to reality
The project was envisaged in 2002 following the designation of the Dorset and East Devon Coast the Jurassic Coast as England’s only natural World Heritage Site in 2001. The proposals build on the successful work of the Reserve Wardens and their dedicated team of volunteers who have operated the popular visitor centre since 1995.
A true partnership
The project was developed by a wide range of partners including Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, the Crown Estate, the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Team, Dorset County Council, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Natural England and Ilchester Estate. The new Centre will be managed by Dorset Wildlife Trust utilising their skills and experience in managing visitor facilities and engaging people in nature-based activities.
Weymouth & Portland Borough Council Environment Brief holder, Brendan Webster, commented: “This is excellent news for the Borough and it will be wonderful to see the development of an expanded Chesil Centre on Portland in time for 2012. The improvements and expansion will provide a new opportunity to highlight the outstanding environment at Chesil & the Fleet and the World Heritage Site, to an increasing number of local people and visitors, especially local and visiting school and college groups. We also hope that the centre will become a focal point for local community activities with the new meeting room and catering facilities.”
Brian Bleese, Director of Operations at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “This is great news for people and wildlife. The project will enable us to offer many more opportunities for local people and visitors to learn about, enjoy and help to conserve the wonderful natural heritage of the area.”
What is Chesil?
Chesil is one of the finest barrier beaches in the world. It is made up of pebbles and shingle and its 17-mile length has stood up to the full force of the Atlantic for thousands of years. It protects the Fleet, which is the largest tidal lagoon in Britain and a place of international importance for its birds and marine wildlife. The redeveloped Centre will provide the opportunity for visitors of all ages to find out more about the heritage resource of Chesil Beach, the Fleet and the adjacent Lyme Bay and Portland Harbour, set within the context of the World Heritage Site.
The Heritage Lottery funding is being supported with match funding from the Crown Estate, Fine Family Foundation, Weymouth & Portland Council, Portland Gas Trust, Dorset County Council, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Jurassic Coast Team.
Nerys Watts, HLF South West Regional Manager said: “Chesil beach is of national importance in terms of our natural marine wildlife. This new centre will give more people the chance to learn about and explore this rare landscape. Alongside the new facilities for visitors and education space for schools groups, there will be opportunities for local people to volunteer, so that people from across the community will be able to play a part celebrating this natural heritage treasure.”
An Olympic opening!
The existing Centre and public toilets are planned to stay open until the end of the summer holidays in 2011. During the works temporary interpretation and a base for staff and volunteers will be provided along with interim catering provision. It is planned that the new Centre will be open in time for summer 2012.
Commenting on the successful progress of the project, Sam Rose, World Heritage Team Leader, said: “This is fantastic news and the new Chesil Centre will fill a vital gap in providing residents and visitors with an inspiring way to celebrate, explore and enjoy their World Heritage Site. The success of the bid is a tribute to the commitment of the existing centre staff and volunteers, and the determination of all the project partners.”