A brand new Youth Hostel in Northumberland National Park has been given the green light following the award of a grant of £7.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).The grant puts the Sill, the country’s first national landscape discovery centre, within £2.2 million of funds to ensure the project reaches its full potential.
The HLF grant has helped secure the future of the ambitious Sill project, and construction is expected to begin on site later this year. The activity programme will start in autumn 2015 and the Sill national landscape discovery building and new YHA will open their doors to the public in June 2017.
The new YHA will replace the current property, YHA Once Brewed, and will be part of the Sill which is located in the heart of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site in Northumberland National Park.
Caroline White, Chief Executive of YHA (England and Wales) said: “The announcement of funding from HLF is a huge step forward for the Sill. The HLF funding, together with that from other providers, has closed the funding gap significantly. It is immensely exciting that we are now within touching distance of transforming the current YHA site at Once Brewed and creating a nationally significant landscape discovery centre which will ensure that young people can continue to enjoy exciting outdoor experiences in Northumberland National Park.”
Since 2011 YHA (England and Wales) has invested more than £25million in its network of properties, creating comfortable, contemporary-styled accommodation, helping put further distance between the outdated public perception of Youth Hostels and the modern reality, which is proving particularly popular with young families looking for great value, child-friendly breaks.
The flagship project is being spearheaded by Northumberland National Park Authority (NNPA) and YHA (England and Wales). Once complete, the Sill will deliver a comprehensive programme of interpretation, education, research and events that will inspire people to celebrate, value and conserve the unique natural and cultural heritage of the Northumberland landscape. It will attract more than 100,000 visitors each year, and will offer an all-weather and year-round facility that provides YHA accommodation, retail facilities and a café.
Northumberland National Park is home to some of England’s darkest skies, cleanest rivers, ancient landscapes, rich culture and heritage and breath-taking scenery. Recent national opinion polls show that 89% of people strongly support National Parks but these polls also show a large decline in visits from young people and less wealthy people who didn’t know as much about national parks and their importance to the nation.
John Riddle, Chairman of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “We are absolutely delighted by the announcement. To receive such substantial HLF backing is a wonderful boost for the project and marks a very significant day for the North East.”
Tony Gates, Chief Executive of the National Park Authority, claims the project will transform how people will learn about and explore our landscapes. He said: “The great outdoors is important to people, it enriches our lives, it makes us feel alive. The Sill will help people from all walks of life explore and learn about Britain’s finest landscapes. Through this project, we will inspire the next generation of custodians, protecting the legacy of our stunning landscapes for the future. We are particularly keen to ensure young people benefit, with The Sill as our answer to the ipad in helping grab young peoples’ attention.
“We’re very grateful to the organisations and individuals who have supported the project in helping us get this far, it’s been a real team effort and we will need their ongoing support to ensure The Sill delivers to its full potential and the maximum number of people benefit from a connection with our heritage.”
Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “With the famous Hadrian’s Wall and much more besides on the doorstep, this new state-of-the-art discovery centre will become the perfect base from which to explore the national park’s unquestionable beauty. The Heritage Lottery Fund’s investment is also supporting a year-round programme of exhibitions and activities that will ensure that visitors are tempted back to Northumberland again and again, providing a much-needed boost to the local economy.”
Paul Hamblin, Executive Director of National Parks England, said: “This is great news for Northumberland, and the north of England. I’m delighted the fantastic Sill project has moved another step closer. This will be another shining example of cross-sector partnerships and how a great environment is good for business.”
Kathryn Cook, UK Director at National Parks UK, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for the Sill project and the region as a whole. The Sill will help open up the beautiful landscape of the national park to people from all walks of life and will hopefully inspire people to make the most of the countryside. It will be a welcome addition to UK National Parks.”
To take a virtual tour of a modern YHA Youth Hostel visit www.yha.org.uk/hostel-virtual-tours