Amid a global pandemic and embracing innovative new ways of keeping people safe, Forestry England and construction firm Willmott Dixon have finished on schedule, redeveloping the Delamere Forest Visitor Centre and new facilities for the 750,000 visitors that come every year.

The £9 million redevelopment project, the largest ever commissioned by Forestry England, has seen the build of a large eco-friendly timber framed visitor welcome building housing a new café, event spaces and toilets with accessible toilets including adult changing facilities. There is also a new and improved bike centre that is clad in the same UK grown larch as used for the main building, as well as new access roads and improved car parking for 500 cars.

Sustainability has always been at the forefront of this project design with roof top solar panels, a ground source heat pump, a sustainable drainage system in the car park and infrastructure to enable rainwater harvesting key parts of the redevelopment project.

The popularity of outdoor leisure spaces has increased significantly during 2020, with Delamere Forest seeing many thousands of people visiting the site per week, making this redevelopment of visitor facilities even more important as a way of helping people access the forest to help benefit both their physical health and mental wellbeing during this challenging time.

Back in March, with the introduction of stringent measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, swift action had to be taken by Willmott Dixon to embed the Construction Leadership Council’s Government-backed Site Operating Procedures at the project.  Through doing this, it allowed for safe working practices to be embedded for the safety of everyone on site, as well as allowing the site to remain operational, following the Government’s request for ‘construction work to carry on wherever safe to do so’.

Delamere Forest is managed by Forestry England as a source of sustainably grown timber, as well as a visitor destination for people looking to explore the forest on foot, on bike and on horseback and has proved a popular destination for the people of Cheshire and beyond for many decades. Also home to a GoApe high wires course, a successful learning provider for schools and a soon-to-be-opened Forest Holidays cabin development, this redevelopment project is key in helping people better experience the benefits of spending time in nature. The completion of the project on time, during a global pandemic, is something that both Forestry England and Willmott Dixon are celebrating.

Paddy Harrop, Forest District Manager for Forestry England, said

“It’s been with immense pride that we have seen this project continue. Willmott Dixon have been proactive in facing the challenges COVID-19 has brought to us all and quickly found ways of working that let the construction continue while still ensuring government guidelines were met and safely adhered to. To be able to deliver this project on time for the visitors of Delamere Forest, has been an amazing achievement for all those involved.”

Anthony Dillon, managing director for Willmott Dixon in the North, said:

“We’re very proud to play our part in delivering such as important project and help to transform one of the North West’s most iconic outdoor spaces, that have never been more important for our community’s health and well-being especially in these challenging times.

“It is thanks to the strength of the relationships and collaboration between our team, Forestry England and all our local design and supply chain partners that we have overcome the unprecedented challenges of the last few months, completed the project, and, most importantly, kept everyone safe on site.”


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