Although research lies at the heart of all we do, we could not have predicted the number of people who would wish to visit the Allerton Project. In 1996 we invested £60,000 and converted a cattle shed into a small visitor centre. As time moved on, our research agenda has broadened from game management to biodiversity, soil management and water quality, renewable energy and waste recycling, and with it has grown interest in the Project. Increasingly people want to come and see the Project for themselves and this coupled with school visits and the introduction of training courses, has meant we have outgrown our existing visitor facilities.
In keeping with our ecological approach to land management we sought to design a building which stood on a brown field site, was constructed using ‘green’ materials (straw ball walls, sheeps wool insulation and a car park membrane made from recycled farm plastics) and was as environmentally benign as we could make it to operate (a bio mass boiler using wood chippings from our own farmland, rainwater harvesting for flushing the toilets and solar panels providing electricity). Thanks to the amazing assistance from the charity Pro-Help, we secured some expert help and submitted plans for a new building around three times bigger than the previous one. This incorporates a new toilet block, boiler house, kitchen, laboratory and store room, three meeting rooms with retractable screens, and a new entrance and car park.