New £6.5 million redevelopment one step closer as NSC and IQ submit detailed planning application
A DETAILED planning application for a £6.5 million transformation of the National Stone Centre (NSC) near Wirksworth, Derbyshire, that draws on influences from local rock formations for the building’s form, has been jointly submitted by the NSC and the Institute of Quarrying (IQ).
The proposed new National Stone Centre will embody strong references and links to the area’s geology and industrial heritage, including the overhanging rock formations found in local gritstone outcrops, such as Black Rocks and Stanage Edge.
The plans have been developed in partnership with Wirksworth-based building design and consultancy practice Babenko Associates. A cantilevered structure will allow the building to emerge from the hillside and spring out of the ground, reflecting the rock formations in a dynamic way.
Phase One of the project includes proposals for a 100-seater café/restaurant, four naturally lit classrooms with a combined capacity of 120 learners, 700 sq m of museum/exhibition space, a souvenir shop, Changing Places facilities, a new thematic children’s playground, and a 1,200 sq m open-air circular piazza for community events.
James Thorne, chief executive officer of the Institute of Quarrying, which has merged with the NSC, said: ‘In 2021 the value of tourism to the Peak District and Derbyshire’s economy was estimated at £1.96 billion*. A reimagined and reinvigorated National Stone Centre will bring new visitors, as well as providing a focal point for engaging the public, schools and colleges in the science, history, present and future of the quarrying and mineral products industry.
‘We are delighted to have reached this point in the project, which makes everything feel so much more real. This planning application is the end result of over a year’s consultation and engagement with all of our stakeholders. We have listened and learned, taking on board feedback that has helped shape our application.
‘We firmly believe that our plans represent an exciting moment in the history of the National Stone Centre, delivering a unique building that is both fit for purpose and inspiring for generations to come. It’s the home that such a significant collection deserves, as well as proudly representing what is now the largest manufacturing sector in the UK.’
Jo Dilley, managing director of Marketing Peak District & Derbyshire, said: ‘We’re proud to support the Institute of Quarrying’s exciting plans for the National Stone Centre near Wirksworth. These plans signal a positive step towards their goal of creating an extraordinary new centre of excellence that will not only attract visitors from across the UK, but also support local jobs and provide unique educational opportunities that will benefit both visitors and residents alike.
‘As a valued strategic partner, the Institute of Quarrying shares our commitment to increasing the value of tourism and promoting the Peak District and Derbyshire as a sustainable, world-class destination. The National Stone Centre is a great public asset that will help deliver these goals and more – and securing its future is so important.’
IQ President Viv Russell explained: ‘This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a hugely exciting new visitor centre that celebrates the extraordinary role that stone plays in all of our lives, to inspire the next generation and create a centre of excellence to develop the knowledge and skills of people in the industry today.’
The aim of the NSC is to be a centre of excellence providing a national, regional, and local base for aspects related to learning and innovation about stone and allied matters. The vision is to create a destination that the quarrying and minerals products industry can use to engage its employees and other stakeholders vital to the future of the sector.
Robert Shields DL, group chairman of Derbyshire-based Longcliffe Quarries Ltd – one of the largest independent employers in the mineral products sector, added: ‘Stone and quarrying have played an important role in the industrial heritage of this area and continue to play a vital role in supporting the local economy of Derbyshire. The National Stone Centre is a fantastic facility which celebrates this. These plans are all about building on the value of an already important centre and enhancing the skills and innovation of our local economy as well as the wider industry.’
Through school visits to the NSC’s museum and exhibitions, the site helps children understand the science in geology, the natural environment, and industrial heritage. The NSC provides an opportunity to inspire the future talent the quarrying and mineral products industry needs to remain competitive and innovative.
Professor Iain Stewart, patron of the NSC, added: ‘I’m hugely passionate about how stone has shaped our world today. Securing the future of the NSC for future generations to experience and enjoy is fantastic news.’
The National Stone Centre officially opened in 1990 to inspire people to engage with the origin, industry, and history of stone. It is set within six former limestone quarries on a 40-acre Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). For more information, visit: www.quarrying.org
*2021 STEAM data