Pictured: the new Earth Lab, complete with natural building materials and wildflower roof © Agile Homes 2021 Earth Trust Phase 1 - via Earth Trust
OxLEP has announced the completion of Earth Trust Gateway Programme Phase One, a Government-funded project forming part of a much larger innovative programme to engage and inspire people to care for the environment.
Earth Trust’s new ‘Earth Lab’ will double their capacity to engage young people and provide opportunities for bringing environmental science to life throughout the curriculum.
The project also sees the renovation of a former barn into a new ‘Innovation Hub’, which will offer multi-use business units for sustainability-conscious businesses, as well as acting as an inspiring welcome for visitors.
Earth Lab will provide flexible classroom space, enabling Earth Trust to deliver science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and art-based environmental education, improving the skills and confidence of people of all ages.
The building of Earth Lab itself showcases a host of eco-friendly materials and features, incorporating natural building materials that lock up carbon.
Designed to sit in harmony with the landscape, the construction comprises a timber frame, straw insulation panels, a rammed earth wall (using soil from the location) and a full-depth wildflower roof in keeping with those grown locally, while using the minimum amount of concrete possible.
OxLEP secured £1.49m of funding for the project via the government’s Local Growth Fund – the overall cost of the project is £2.9m.
OxLEP is one of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in England playing a key role in driving forward economic growth and – by 2021 – it’s expected that central Government will have invested over £12bn into the UK economy via the Local Growth Fund.
The Local Growth Fund investment aims to allow LEPs to use their local knowledge to promote growth in their individual regions. Analysis has shown that for every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested, £4.81 in benefits could be generated.
Since its inception in 2011, OxLEP – with its partners – has secured over £660m-worth of government funding for Oxfordshire, which has seen more than 48,000 new jobs created in the county to-date.
In total, OxLEP currently oversees a £2.2bn growth programme for the county.
Nigel Tipple – OxLEP Chief Executive – said: “The completion of such a significant project – that will have a positive impact on our communities, bringing us closer to nature – is excellent news.
“Earlier this summer, we saw the launch of the ‘Pathways to Zero Carbon Oxfordshire’ report which encourages businesses and the wider community to embrace a greener and more sustainable way of living and operating – this project is a great example of how investment secured by OxLEP can support a move in that direction.
“We were delighted to have secured such a major Local Growth Fund allocation for this project and we are sure it can be real asset to Oxfordshire.”
Jayne Manley – CEO at Earth Trust – said: “It has been fantastic to see our vision for Earth Lab and the Innovation Hub become a reality, made possible with support from the Local Growth Fund.
“We welcomed our first learners last month and are looking forward to realising the full potential of both buildings to catalyse creative thinking and debate as we work together to address the enormous biodiversity and climate emergency challenges we face.”