The North York Moors National Park Authority Planning Committee has given its unanimous support to an application for alterations and extensions to the Sutton Bank Visitor Centre including the installation of solar PV together with an extension of existing car parking areas, creation of additional car parking areas, proposed paths and erection of a dark skies viewing/bird hide building.
The innovative package comprises three elements: alterations and extensions to the main Visitor Centre building; the provision of additional car parking; and the creation of a dark sky observatory/bird hide and walled viewing enclosure in the Cliff Wood Plantation to the northwest of the Visitor Centre.
The development will see the visitor centre grow by over 50% and includes extensions to the café area, bike hire facilities, new customer toilets and a large retail/exhibition space. The alterations to the visitor centre will also include the installation of solar PV panels on the roof to provide some of the energy requirements from a renewable source.
An extension to one of the existing car parks and an additional new car park will cater for the predicted increase in visitor numbers. The North York Moors National Park Authority is seeking to increase the visitor numbers to the National Park, particularly at ‘hubs’ such as Sutton Bank.
The dark skies viewing building, which will double up as a bird hide during the day, will include a ‘living roof’. This new building will be situated within the Cliff Plantation and will offer a space to enjoy the stunning night skies. Sutton Bank is recognised as one of the best places in the country to view the night sky owing to its limited light pollution and open vistas.
In support of the application, the Assistant Director of Park Services stated:
“The rationale for the development is that investing in the rights of way network and outdoor activities such as cycling, dark sky viewing (which is becoming increasingly popular and supported by the National Park’s two week long Dark Sky Festival) and creating bird watching opportunities will attract more visitors into the vicinity using the Visitor Centre as a base. As a result of these activities which will be supported by an improved Visitor Centre, café, bike shop and toilets, visitor numbers are projected to increase by up to 40% by year 3 after completion. The additional car parking will be needed to accommodate the demand especially at peak periods of school and bank holidays. However it is not currently proposed to construct the west car park extension until such a time as the demand is great enough to warrant this.”
Cass Associates were appointed by the North York Moors National Park Authority and provided planning, architecture and landscape architecture services.