What is the Discovery Centre Project?
The building is all about information and education on a wide range of environmental and historical topics under the main heading of “Changing Coastlines” in the Rye Bay area. It’s not just about the nature reserve and not just about wildlife. There are so many stories to tell.
Why do we need the Discovery Centre?
With more than 360,000 visits in 2017 the nature reserve needs a larger facility to engage with people as well as decent office space and storage for staff and volunteers. We only attracted 5% of visitors into our tiny information centre at Lime Kiln Cottage.
Why at this location?
The proposed site at Lime Kiln Cottage is owned by the Friends of the nature reserve and it has none of the international wildlife designations of the surrounding land. It has good views over special wildlife habitats and it’s very close to four activity areas for educational groups: grassland, saltmarsh, shoreline and a birdwatching hide. In 2017 220,000 visits entered the reserve by walking past this location.
What difference will it make?
It will provide a warm and comfortable space, with information, toilets, refreshments and a view, so people and educational groups can plan their visits in all weathers and all year round. This is especially important for the less able visitors. It will enable people of all ages and mobility to discover more through increased numbers of educational visits, events, adult education, work experience, training, displays and interactive exhibits. It will improve the visitor experience and encourage year-round repeat visits that will also benefit local tourism businesses.
Why not just carry on with Lime Kiln Cottage?
The current provision at Lime Kiln Cottage is very cramped, damp, cold and liable to flooding.
How much will it cost?
The building cost is about £2.5M but the total project cost is around £4.0m.
Where will the money come from?
The Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve have pledged £1.5M which was mostly a generous legacy from David & Joyce Layton. So far an additional £1.25M has been raised through grant application and donations.
Why does it cost so much?
The site within the garden area of Lime Kiln Cottage is irregular and the design must fulfil a number of requirements to make it suitable: floor level raised 1.2m to be flood resilient, wheelchair accessible, provision of toilets and café, low lighting levels and no impact on the surrounding land which has the highest of wildlife designations. As far as possible, it should be energy neutral.
What educational facilities will be provided?
An important improvement will be flexible space for school parties and other educational groups. This will include separate cloakroom and toilet facilities and storage. For some time, Reserve staff have been developing learning areas in four main habitats close to the Discovery Centre, where students will have direct contact with wildlife. This space can also accommodate meetings and lectures. In a wider educational sense, exciting displays will explain the importance of the Reserve to all visitors.
Will there be public toilets?
Yes, four, wheelchair accessible toilets. In addition there will be three separate toilets for the use of educational groups. Wheelchair access to the building will be via ramps to the front & rear entrances
What provision will there be for sewage disposal?
The building will be connected to the main sewer.
Will there be refreshments?
A cafe will serve a limited selection of drinks and snacks. It will have a restricted menu of hot and cold drinks, cake, biscuits, sandwiches and simple hot food such soup. The kitchen will enable the space to be used for events.
Will the cafe conflict with local businesses?
This limited range of refreshment will avoid serious conflict with the existing businesses of Rye Harbour, which offer full catering more than 600 meters away. We believe that Discovery Centre will be a major additional benefit to what the nature reserve already contributes to the local economy, especially the local tourism businesses. The nature reserve promotes the local businesses that provide fuller menus.
What green features are incorporated?
The building will be made with locally sourced Sweet Chestnut cladding. The design includes photovoltaic panels covering half the roof. The building and surrounding landscaping will provide many places for wild plants and animals to live. The ventilation will be passive and the heating will utilise air sourced heat pumps.
Who will run the Discovery Centre?
The Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve will lease it to the Sussex Wildlife Trust who will manage the building and its operation. The Friends will support the running of the building.
What happened to the existing staff accommodation?
There is not space to retain the existing accommodation AND keep the building to a single storey. Although we are not obliged to accommodate staff, it is in the nature reserve’s interests to have a Warden living nearby so we have made a transitional agreement to assist with housing in Rye.
Aren’t you worried about vandalism?
This is a concern for such a remote building but security surveillance will be installed.
What are the timescales?
The Planning Application was approved in late 2017. Contractors are in the process of submitting tenders. The formal opening of the building is planned for April 2020, the 50th Anniversary of the Nature Reserve.
How can I get a better idea of the size?
The Discovery Centre will occupy all of Lime Kiln’s currently fenced area. A pole with a ball on top has been installed to give you a sense of the roof height.
Updated 9th July 2018