Work on the new £660,000 visitor centre for Hastings Country Park has ground to a halt during the current Covid-19 ‘lockdown’.
It had originally been hoped the new centre might have opened during this year but that now looks unlikely.
Before work stopped the building has reached the point where the walls are up, the roof is on, plaster is on the inside walls and render on the outside. And the real scale of the project is now clearly visible as the ambitions environmentally friendly structure takes shape.
Mary Rawlinson of Green and Castle and Phil Christopher of Huff and Puff Construction are working to find a way that some of the team can return and continue safely on the site. When work restarts the next steps will be the decoration and laying of the floor, before the fit out and external hard landscaping begins.
The new centre is being built using straw with significant financial input from the European Union’s ‘Up-Straw’ scheme.
The project has been controversial from the outset and this new delay is just the latest for a project that has been beset by delay.
The idea to create a visitor centre built from straw bales was initially approved by the Hastings Borough Council’s (HBC) planning committee in 2015 and there were two aborted attempts to get construction of the state-of-the-art building underway.
HBC even spent £2,000 buying the straw bales for the project in 2015 but they then had to be stored until appropriate builders were identified and work finally started on the site in 2019.
The new centre will be home to information about the park, its geology, habitats, species and heritage. There will be a café for light refreshments and new accessible toilets.
Colin Fitzgerald, now deputy leader of HBC, said last year: “HBC is delighted to be part of the innovative Up-Straw project which aims to showcase sustainable and energy efficient building projects with reduced carbon footprints.
“The project will deliver new visitor facility for this very special site, which is one of the country’s foremost coastal nature reserves, with a high quality space for schools, local communities and visitors.”