Plans in for £6.5m National Stone Centre

How the scheme would look

A detailed planning application for a £6.5m 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 National Stone Centre and the Institute of Quarrying.

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.

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 children’s playground; and a 1200 sq m open-air circular piazza for community events.

James Thorne is chief executive officer of the Institute of Quarrying, which has merged with the National Stone Centre. He 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, added: “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 will also support local jobs and provide unique educational opportunities that will benefit both visitors and residents alike.”

Viv Russell, president, IQ, added: “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.”

Robert Shields DL, group chairman of Longcliffe Quarries – one of the largest independent employers in the mineral products sector and based in Derbyshire adds: “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.”

The National Stone Centre officially opened in 1990 to inspire people to engage with the origin, industry and the history of stone. It is set within six former limestone quarries on a 40 acre Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).