Rye Harbour Discovery Centre

New-build visitor centre, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

CCS Gold Award for showcasing “an exceptional approach to considerate practice through fantastic external appearances and brilliant work with the local community.”

Project Details


Rye, East Sussex


Sussex Wildlife Trust


Simpson & Brown

Building Services Consultant

Mott Macdonald

Programme Period

38 weeks

Contract Value

Localism was a key element of this project as a means to reduce potential negative environmental impact and support the local economy and community.
Baxall were engaged by Sussex Wildlife Trust to deliver Rye Harbour Discovery Centre, a low-impact, purpose-built visitor centre to support the nature reserve’s 360,000 annual visitors, with classrooms, meeting rooms, a café, shop and wheelchair-accessible toilet facilities. A key conservation site, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is an ecologically sensitive area and a registered coastal SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), a European Protection Area and Ramsar site.

A comprehensive Environmental Management Plan was developed in compliance with current legislation in conjunction with a bespoke Project Quality & Environmental Plan (PQEP). Baxall’s in-house Chartered Environmentalist advised, guided and supported the Rye Harbour project delivery team and worked closely and collaboratively with the Environment Agency to ensure best environmental and sustainable construction practice. Stringent pollution protection methods were adhered to at all times due to the sensitivity of the working environment. Ecological enhancements as mitigation for loss of habitat included external planting with plants sourced from within the reserve during the site clearance. Works avoided bird nesting season and the team carefully captured and released protected reptile species such as common lizards and slow worms.

Baxall’s Site Manager maintained daily contact with the client representative (in addition to formal weekly review meetings); this proactive approach to open communication was paramount in maintaining accurate and up-to-date information on both the build process and operational aspect to maximise safety, minimise disruption and properly manage risk.

Localism was a key element of this project to reduce potential negative environmental impact and support the local economy and community. The team used locally sourced sweet chestnut timber cladding from managed woodlands less than 15 miles from site, and contracted East Sussex firm Inwood to design, manufacture and install the building superstructure and cladding. Materials were also purchased from the local builders’ merchants in Rye.

Minimising costs were balanced against maintaining visitors’ enjoyment of the nature reserve. Throughout the tender and construction process Baxall proactively engaged and collaborated with the client’s team to achieve the most cost-effective solutions and alternative construction methods and materials, and challenged the design by engaging our supply chain to ensure the client received best value for money and the highest quality building.

Servicing to operate the new building included the creation of a 550m service trench located in the highway and through the nature reserve’s main access road. Works involved installing a new pumping chamber with dual pumps and bespoke pump controls. We liaised directly with UKPN to install a new mains cable in the service trench and terminate the ends, including an elevated sub-station. These works could only commence once all licenses were in place to excavate through third party land, including wayleaves, road opening and the Environment Agency (FRAP agreement) were in place.

During construction, Baxall’s Site Manager utilised the collaborative ‘Last Planner’ system and mobile technology reporting to maximise efficiency, and gathered data for KPI benchmarking in addition to measuring elements such as CO2, waste, recycling and localism (staff, supply chain and spend). In keeping with our commitment to providing social and environmental value, Baxall entered a team for the Ekiden Relay Race to raise money for Rye Harbour Discovery Centre and supported the RNLI’s Pebble Memorial project in memory of the 17 Rye-based crewmen who lost their lives on the Mary Stanford lifeboat in a gale.

The team successfully delivered the striking Rye Harbour Discovery Centre on time, budget and to the highest quality. As testament to exemplary standards throughout the project Baxall won a CCS Gold National Site Award for showcasing “an exceptional approach to considerate practice through fantastic external appearances and brilliant work with the local community”, alongside the highest standards of “commitments shown in respect to the environment, safety and workforce”.

Rye Harbour Discovery Center Gallery

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