Construction at Sherwood Observatory reaches new heights

March 2024

The steels for the planetarium dome at Sherwood Observatory have now been installed, marking a huge milestone in the build.

The planetarium construction is part of Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society and Ashfield District Council’s development to create a Science Discovery Centre and planetarium at Sherwood Observatory in Sutton. The project is one of 16 being funded by Ashfield District Council’s £62.6million Towns Deal.

The impressive steels can be seen from as far as Penny Emma Way in Sutton, giving residents, and visitors to the District, a sense of what the finished building will look like.

Councillor Matthew Relf, Executive Lead Member for Regeneration, Growth, and Local Planning visited the site and said: “It is incredible to see the steel work for both the planetarium and the Science Discovery Centre in place. We are all getting really excited now that we can see the final footprint of the building. This project is one that will truly benefit the entire District, attracting visitors from across the county and beyond. When combined with the Council’s other projects you can see our vision for the future of Ashfield; a place with a thriving visitor economy, and a great place to work, live, and learn.”

The ambitious plans for the site aim to create a unique, world-class facility that will rival those elsewhere in the UK. The observatory, on Coxmoor Road, sits alongside a Victorian subterranean reservoir which will be sympathetically transformed into an education and exhibition space. The original features of the reservoir, such as the intricate brick arches, will be kept preserving the history of the building.
Councillor Jason Zadrozny, Leader of the Council, was also blown away by his site visit: “The speed of the progress on site at Sherwood Observatory is fantastic. This project is exciting and innovative and will make a difference to the children living in Ashfield. They will get to experience a world-class educational centre right here on their doorstep, the power of this cannot be understated. One of Ashfield District Council’s aims is to improve skills and employability and having a centre like this here will help inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists.”

The Planetarium is being built next to the Science and Discovery centre, that sits on top of and within the reservoir, and will immerse visitors in space with a wraparound experience. Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society (MSAS), who own and run the observatory, currently run outreach programmes with local schools, group visits for adult and children’s groups, public open events and night schools, and the new building will allow them to expand this valuable work in Ashfield and beyond.

Steve Wallace, Planetarium Project Manager, said:“Sherwood Observatory is dedicated to bridging the opportunity gap within our community. We will do this through an ambitious outreach programme that uses astronomy as a means of inspiring people of all ages to take an interest in STEM subjects and careers, particularly for disadvantaged young residents, through extracurricular activities and a world-class visitor attraction. Recognising that we can inspire the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs, we would love more businesses to get involved. The project team have developed a pledge list for those who share our vision, so please get in touch and add your name to this fantastic project.”

In January 2023, it was announced that £3.1million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund had been awarded to the project. Since then MSAS have been working to secure match funding and they have now received contributions from The Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, and National Lottery Heritage Fund that total £850,000.

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