Published: Mon 22nd February, 2021
Work will soon start on creating a visitor centre at the Outwoods in Loughborough.
Charnwood Borough Council is converting the former ranger’s cottage into a visitor centre and café at the ancient woodland site.
Plans for the project were approved at a plans committee last year however, the Covid-19 pandemic put the project on hold until this year.
It is now hoped the centre will be completed by the end of this summer.
Cllr Jenny Bokor, lead member for Loughborough said: “I’m pleased this project will be starting soon.
“The cottage has been largely unused for many years and it will be great to see it transformed into a new visitor centre and improve the facilities for everyone who visits the Outwoods.
“The pandemic has meant even more of us are spending time outdoors and I hope this news will be welcomed by the many people who visit the woodland. The café will provide somewhere for people to enjoy a hot drink and maybe a slice of cake and there will also be space for displays and other events.
“As a Council, we are committed to working with the Outwoods Management Committee to improve the Outwoods while maintaining its historic character. Over the past few years, we opened a new £140,000 natural play area and events shelter and are currently working with Natural England to restore the site back to a natural acid oak woodland as part of a 10-year project.”
It is planned for the visitor centre to include a café, toilets and space for exhibition displays.
Estimated costs to create the centre are around £130,000 and a private operator is being sought to manage it.
Responsibility of the Outwoods lies with the Outwoods Management Committee which is a separate body to the Council. However, the Council effectively maintains the Outwoods working alongside the committee.
Cllr Hilary Fryer, chair of the committee said: “It’s great news that work will soon start on converting the former ranger’s cottage into a visitor centre and café.
“Obviously, the project had to be paused last year, but this is some much-needed good news during what has been a difficult 12 months.
“The Outwoods is loved by everyone who visits, and we hope people will be able to enjoy this new facility once it is completed later this year.”
Work on the project is planned to start at the beginning of March.
The Outwoods Visitor Centre and Café will be dedicated in memory of former leader of the Council, David Slater.
Leader of Charnwood Borough Council, Cllr Jonathan Morgan said: “I’m pleased the new visitor centre at the Outwoods will be dedicated in memory of David.
“It will be a fitting tribute to the contributions he made to the Outwoods and our open spaces in the borough while he was leader of the Council.”
The natural play area will need close for around two weeks of the project and the building work may have a small impact on the car park.
People can keep up to date with the project by checking out the Council’s social media channels or by visiting www.charnwood.gov.uk/visitorcentre
The Outwoods is 110 acres of ancient woodland to the south of Loughborough and is one of the oldest surviving woodland sites in Charnwood. It is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England, which means it is protected by law to conserve its wildlife and geology.
Businesses interested in operating the new cafe can register their interest by emailing Outwoodsnewcafeoperator@charnwood.gov.uk