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Willmott Dixon to build £7m activity centre

10 Oct 11 Willmott Dixon has been awarded a £7m contract to build an educational activity centre on the site of the defunct Earth Centre in Doncaster.

Work will begin in October and is due for completion in spring 2012.

The former Earth Centre has been vacant since 2004 and Doncaster Council agreed to sell the site earlier this year to Kingswood, a provider of residential educational activity centres.

Kingswood currently operates nine educational centres which are visited by more than 145,000 pupils from 3,000 schools and 130 local authorities. The 50-acre site near Doncaster will be transformed into the Kingswood Dearne Valley Centre - a flagship educational centre bringing visitors to the area from throughout the country.

Kingswood CEO Paul Gilbert said: “We are investing more than £10m to develop our new centre and it is very important to us to find a construction partner that has both the policies and approach to bring the former Earth Centre back to life in a way that embraces our commitment to education and the community.

“Willmott Dixon has the sustainable and education sector expertise that will deliver just that.”

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Willmott Dixon managing director of in the north Anthony Dillon said: “Much of the sustainable technology that was installed in the former Earth Centre is still pioneering and our work will ensure that we protect and reclaim every aspect we can.

“We are also making sure that local businesses benefit as much as possible. For example, we monitor our use of subcontractors within a 10 or 30 mile radius to ensure as much work as possible is done by local companies. We will also work with Kingswood to reach out to local schools to keep them involved and informed as the project develops.”

Work to be undertaken by Willmott Dixon includes the refurbishment of existing buildings including the welcome centre, conference building, café, multi-purpose hall, class rooms, reception and retail space, laser quest area, climbing wall and many satellite outbuildings. Accommodation for pupils and teachers will also be built to provide 120 rooms.

The Kingswood Dearne Valley Centre will use wind and solar power, waste water harvesting, biodiversity and recycling.  Visiting students will have the chance to learn more about these features in ICT labs. Activities on offer include a rope adventure course and performing arts facilities.

The Earth Centre opened in 1999 on the site of a former colliery at Denaby at a cost of £55m, but was closed in 2004 after failing to attract enough people.

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