The two high-profile visitor attractions have both benefited from top quality design and improvement projects, carried out by Hampshire County Council’s in-house Property Services team, and are now being enjoyed by thousands of visitors from across Hampshire and beyond.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry, said:
These are two enormously popular public attractions that stand out for their excellent design. The Lookout is a striking new restaurant, designed to cope with the challenges of coastal weather, while the Whitchurch Silk Mill is a nationally-important historic building that has been sensitively conserved and enhanced for visitors. To have two such different buildings both shortlisted for these prestigious awards, is testimony to the impressive range of skills and specialist knowledge that our architects and designers are bringing to Hampshire’s public attractions.
Whitchurch Silk Mill: Shortlisted in the Conservation category
Built in 1815, Whitchurch Silk Mill is of national significance as the oldest working silk mill in the UK. In 2016 The Mill embarked on a £1.36m project to repair and conserve the site and buildings, improve the visitor experience and ensure the future of silk weaving in Whitchurch. The project was partially funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, with the remainder coming from Trusts, Charities, Foundations and private donations. The project has restored the Mill’s original open floor plans and enabled visitors to watch the production of silk fabrics by highly skilled craftspeople. The layout of the building has been altered to improve visitor flow, with glazed partitions providing views of the looms.
The project has included:
- Conservation and repairs to the fabric of the listed mill building
- Installation of a new lift, enabling full access to the unique historic machinery on the second floor for the first time
- Creation of a new welcome building housing the shop, ticketing and café, enabling the old café to be removed from the mill building, thereby providing space for learning activities.
- Landscape improvements, including new widened bridges, an external deck over the River Test with views of the mill and new railings around the site.
Sue Tapliss, Whitchurch Silk Mill Director said:
The Preserving the Fabric project has secured the future for silk weaving at the mill by creating an inspiring and beautiful place to visit and learn about its significant past. The new Welcome Building hosts a destination café and gift shop which will help us to become self-sustaining by 2025. The restoration and access improvements in the Mill have improved the visitor experience and we can now look forward to delighting visitors for another 200 years.
The Lookout at Lepe: Shortlisted in the Leisure and Tourism category
Set within the New Forest National Park, The Lookout is a new beach-side restaurant at Lepe Country Park in Exbury. It was completed last summer as part of a £2.9 million transformation of the park’s facilities for visitors. Out of five Hampshire County Council country parks that have been allocated significant investment, Lepe was the first to complete its makeover, now boasting new accessible paths and toilets, improved play equipment and a stunning new restaurant. The Lookout replaced a visitor facility that had become dated and, with rising sea levels, increasingly vulnerable to damage from storm and tidal surges. The new restaurant is designed to withstand exposure to coastal weather, being elevated some 2.5 metres above the beach. It also offers panoramic views of the Solent from its wide glazed front, boasting a striking design that is proving popular with visitors.
Commenting on The Lookout, Councillor Perry said:
Investing in new modern facilities for Lepe is a big step towards making it financially self-sustaining, for future generations to enjoy. The County Council, and its funding partners the Enterprise M3 LEP, New Forest District Council, and the New Forest National Park Authority, have all been delighted with the positive response from visitors to the work undertaken by our design team - the recognition from RICS is well deserved.