Last modified: 03 March 2016
Image: Colin Wilkinson
A consortium led by the RSPB has been named as the preferred bidder to design, build and operate a new visitor centre and to manage the stunning natural habitats within Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest Country Park.
One of the UK’s leading nature conservation charities – the RSPB – has come out on top in a procurement process organised by Nottinghamshire County Council for a new visitor centre and to take on the conservation management of Sherwood Forest Country Park, which forms part of Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve (NNR).
The RSPB will lead a consortium which also features The Sherwood Forest Trust, Continuum Attractions and Thoresby Estate as part of a £5.3m investment programme.
The visitor centre will be designed and built over the coming years and will provide a completely new facility and visitor experience for the people of Nottinghamshire and beyond to enjoy and celebrate the woodland, wildlife and heritage of the site.
Around 350,000 visitors visit Nottinghamshire's world-famous Sherwood Forest country park each year and the hugely successful Robin Hood Festival will again take place next year.
The County Council's management contract also requires the preferred bidder to deliver on effective conservation of the country park within the wider NNR, which features England's Tree of the Year, the Major Oak.
Nottinghamshire County Council’s Culture Committee discussed the options at its meeting on July 21 and today (Wednesday August 12) the council has announced the outcome of that process.
The council will now enter exclusive discussions with the preferred bidder to move towards signing final contracts which could be complete by the end of September. The County Council will remain responsible for the current visitor facilities until the new visitor centre opens at Sherwood Forest Country Park.
Nottinghamshire County Council Leader Councillor Alan Rhodes said: “A bright new chapter for Sherwood Forest country park and the legend of Robin Hood is a step closer with this announcement as we move to final contract talks with the preferred bidder.
"The RSPB has a track record in delivering award-winning visitor centres. Their bid focused on conservation management, iconic heritage and of having expertise of successfully managing these sorts of schemes. The wider consortium has a vast amount of experience and knowledge to promote the international icon of Robin Hood and preserve and protect our world-famous Sherwood Forest."
Mike Clarke, the RSPB Chief Executive said: “This is a hugely exciting project for the RSPB, and a really great opportunity to deliver a fantastic new facility at Sherwood Forest for people, communities and the forest.
"Our core charitable activity is all about managing landscapes for nature and engaging people - and we have a proven track record of delivering, to a high standard, exactly what is required from the Nottinghamshire County Council brief.
"I believe the RSPB, with its wider consortium, will be an excellent partner in this project, committed to delivering a long-term sustainable future for the National Nature Reserve and developing an exciting visitor experience for the people of Nottinghamshire and beyond."
David Parker, Acting Area Manager for Natural England said: "The iconic Sherwood Forest NNR is Nottinghamshire’s premier wildlife site and internationally important for its famous ancient trees and special woodland wildlife.
"We're pleased that this project will realise our shared ambition, to fully restore the condition of this ancient forest to its former glory through the removal of the current facilities. This new modern visitor centre will enable people to continue to marvel at and enjoy this specially protected site in a more sustainable way."
"We look forward to working with the County Council, RSPB and others to deliver this exciting project."
Jennifer Spencer, Chief Executive of Experience Nottinghamshire said: "Sherwood Forest is already one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nottinghamshire, and is known around the world for its role in the Robin Hood legend.
"The RSPB led team is well placed to deliver the project, and we look forward to working with them on the promotion of the new visitor centre when it opens. It is sure to attract even more visitors to the area, while also carefully preserving the forest for future generations."
Patrick Candler, Chief Executive of the Sherwood Forest Trust said: “The Trust is delighted to be part of the consortium winning bid, where our previous work on the Sherwood National Nature Reserve and excellent track record of supporting local community nature sites is well known.
"We will be keen to play our part to ensure that there are great benefits for all those who visit and enjoy the wonderful forest that is Sherwood."
Nick Brown, Regional Agent for Thoresby Estate said: "As a major local landowner, including several leisure and tourism interests, Thoresby Estate is extremely keen to see a first class facility built within Sherwood Forest.
"The Estate also has strong conservation and heritage ethos and I am therefore confident that the RSPB led consortium will be able to deliver a superb new tourist attraction whilst ensuring the wider environment and landscape is managed to the highest standards."
Kevin Smith at Continuum Attractions said: "Continuum Attractions is delighted to be part of the RSPB-led consortium which will breathe new life into Sherwood Forest Country Park and develop a new visitor centre.
"The shared expertise across the consortium will deliver a sustainable future for the Sherwood Forest visitor experience."
Find out more about the visitor centre development by visiting the Sherwood Forest page on the Nottinghamshire.gov website
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