Cheshire East is expected to sign off Jodrell Bank’s £20m First Light project, including a visitors’ centre, exhibition space and auditorium at its observatory near Congleton, at a strategic planning meeting next week.
Jodrell Bank’s proposals on the site of the Granada Arboretum at its observatory are designed to promote scientific work and chronicle the history of the site.
Designed by architect Hassell, the professional team on the project also includes Buro Four, Planit IE, Mott MacDonald, Turley, and WYG.
The circular building will host a gallery, exhibition and education spaces, a cafe, and a 2,300 sq ft auditorium with space for 150 guests.
The £20.5m project was granted £4m by the Government, subject to a sustainable business case, last month as part of the Transforming Cities Fund.
It also received a £12m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, alongside private donations from four foundations and the University of Manchester Alumni Association.
Planning officers recommended the scheme for approval, and said the proposals had “a unique architectural design based on a carefully considered design concept”.
The planners’ report also said the project would “maintain the intrinsic character and beauty” of open countryside in the area, and it would not have an impact on the site’s grade one-listed Lovell Telescope.
Cheshire East’s planning committee has also been recommended to approve an associated planning application which proposes an increase in parking at Jodrell Bank to a maximum of 325 spaces, as well as a new footpath and ticketing booth, to cope with increased visitor numbers.
The site near Congleton currently welcomes around 150,000 visitors per year, and it is hoped First Light and improved facilities will help to boost these numbers significantly.
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