Willmott Dixon in line to transform 121-hectare Colliery site into global eco-business centre

Planning permission has been granted for a £7.5million Sustainable Energy Visitor Centre in Kent that is the first part of a £120 million project to regenerate an economically deprived part of the country. In a UK first, Betteshanger Sustainable Business Parks near Dover will combine business, eco-tourism, research and development sectors on one site. The scheme will see the 121-hectare Betteshanger Colliery transformed into a hub for business, sustainability and education.

Willmott Dixon is now involved in pre-construction work for the visitor centre after project founder Hadlow College opted to use public sector procurement specialist Scape to select a contractor. Willmott Dixon is Scape’s sole contractor on its Major Works Framework and the company aims to sign a contract for the main construction work shortly.

Work on the Sustainable Energy Visitor Centre is due to start in spring with completion by spring 2016. The next stage, to create a Business and Commercial Park that provides an education and enterprise campus complex, will follow once planning has been achieved. The masterplan will also see further extension of the country park and its facilities in the coming years.

Currently, the country park has a temporary visitor centre and the new development will pave the way for Betteshanger to become a global laboratory for green technologies by fusing green technology innovation with both tourism and business. Eco-tourism is expected to attract 150,000 visitors annually and the UK’s only Mining Heritage Museum will also be constructed on the site of the old Colliery.

The whole project is set to give a substantial boost to the local economy, creating up to 1,100 jobs. It will attract large companies and investors as well as a new wave of business start-ups which is set to drive economic growth in this area of Kent. While more traditional industries are moving away from the area, the Betteshanger project is providing large scale regeneration.

“We are delighted to be involved at the very start of this important project to bring investment, jobs and regeneration to this part of Kent. Given our own sustainable credentials, I’m delighted we can use our expertise for the Sustainable Energy Visitor Centre.”

John Waterman, chief operating officer for Willmott Dixon Construction

Mark Robinson, Group Chief Executive of Scape, says, “This flagship project looks set to be a huge boost for the local economy and can become a model for other areas in the country which have been adversely affected by traditional industries moving away. Through creative thinking and hard work, Betteshanger can move boldly into the 21st century, making a more positive impact on the environment.

“The pioneering vision of Hadlow College to create an economic asset which will lead the UK in green technology and eco-tourism must be applauded. The Park includes innovative and ambitious design, so we’re really excited to play our part.”

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor (Executive Director Betteshanger Sustainable Park) says, “Residents in the surrounding communities and the many visitors are delighted that work on the new Visitor Centre has commenced. It is the first part of the exciting plans to be brought to fruition and will make a very important contribution in both social and economic terms.”