Preferred bidder announced for Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre and Country Park

The current Sherwood visitor centre, due to be replaced after a preferred bidder was approved this week.
The current Sherwood visitor centre, due to be replaced after a preferred bidder was approved this week.

A consortium led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has been named as the preferred bidder to design, build and operate a new visitor centre and to manage the stunning natural habitats within Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest Country Park.

The RSPB, one of the the UK’s leading nature conservation charities, has come out on top in a procurement process organised by Notts County Council for a new visitor centre and to take on the conservation management of Sherwood Forest Country Park, which forms part of Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve (NNR).

The RSPB will lead a consortium which also features The Sherwood Forest Trust, Continuum Attractions and Thoresby Estate as part of a £5.3m investment programme.

The visitor centre will be designed and built over the coming years and will provide a completely new facility and visitor experience for the people of Nottinghamshire and beyond to enjoy and celebrate the woodland, wildlife and heritage of the site.

Notts County Council leader, Coun Alan Rhodes, said: “A bright new chapter for Sherwood Forest country park and the legend of Robin Hood is a step closer with this announcement as we move to final contract talks with the preferred bidder.

“The RSPB has a track record in delivering award-winning visitor centres. Their bid focussed on conservation management, iconic heritage and of having expertise of successfully managing these sorts of schemes. The wider consortium has a vast amount of experience and knowledge to promote the international icon of Robin Hood and preserve and protect our world-famous Sherwood Forest.”

Around 350,000 people visit Sherwood Forest Country Park each year and the popular Robin Hood Festival will again take place next year.

The county council’s management contract also requires the preferred bidder to deliver on effective conservation of the country park within the wider NNR, which features England’s Tree of the Year, the Major Oak.

Nottinghamshire County Council’s Culture Committee discussed the options at its meeting on July 21 and now the council has announced the outcome of that process. The council will now enter exclusive discussions with the preferred bidder to move towards signing final contracts which could be complete by the end of September. The county council will remain responsible for the current visitor facilities until the new centre opens at Sherwood Forest Country Park.

Mike Clarke, the RSPB chief executive, said: “This is a hugely exciting project for the RSPB, and a really great opportunity to deliver a fantastic new facility at Sherwood Forest for people, communities and the forest.

“Our core charitable activity is all about managing landscapes for nature and engaging people - and we have a proven track record of delivering, to a high standard, exactly what is required from the Nottinghamshire County Council brief.

“I believe the RSPB, with its wider consortium, will be an excellent partner in this project, committed to delivering a long-term sustainable future for the National Nature Reserve and developing an exciting visitor experience for the people of Nottinghamshire and beyond.”