© Kent Wildlife Trust



The site currently consists of two elements:


The reserve

The welcome areas
(car park, existing visitor centre, elemental garden and wild space)


Subject to planning consent the new Nature and Wellbeing Centre and its associated infrastructure may be placed anywhere within the marked area in red on the map; however entrants should note the potential to achieve views of the reserve from the centre.

In addition there are plans to create a series of islands within the West Lake of the reserve to provide nesting sites for riparian birds and also to increase the visibility of wildlife on the reserve. This could provide opportunities for vistas from the new centre if it remains on the existing footprint.

The building and landscape design should promote learning, wellbeing, curiosity and nature. Wildlife and landscape will be important – the centre should have elements that can accommodate wildlife as well as people, and be a natural companion and complement to the reserve it serves. Wherever possible it should build the connection with nature and be designed with health outcomes in mind for staff working within the centre and for visitors and centre−users.

Relationship to landscape – aesthetics and connectivity to immediate and wider landscape:

  • The building should be beautiful, in sympathy with and complementary to the reserve setting, memorable, functional and durable.
  • The building should provide a sense of arrival and a visual reference point and gateway into the reserve.
  • The building should make as much use of natural light, outdoor space and its connection with the reserve and its lakes as possible.
  • The building will need a clear relationship with the reserve enabling visitors to experience the site first hand, through views out and direct links onto the site.
  • Whilst the facility will act as a hub for the reserve, it should encourage visitors to tour the wider Darent Valley area and its satellites, together with other heritage and nature attractions.




  • Materials and methods of construction should be selected to deliver aesthetic excellence and sustainability.
  • Resonance with local heritage, methods of construction and materials will be important considerations.
  • Proposals for any ancillary buildings [such as replacement of the bungalow 'Tadorna'] or structures should share a similar aesthetic, materials and construction methods [if appropriate] to the main building. Any such proposals would need to form part of a phased development strategy for the site with associated fund−raising streams and activities.


  • The building should aim to be an exemplar of sustainability both in construction and use. It should use green technology to deliver sustainability where sensible and practical [e.g. power sources, foul water filtration, insulation, heating, lighting etc]. We would be interested in on−site electricity generation with any surplus sold to the National Grid. Applicants should note that large scale wind turbines will not be a favoured option on the site.
  • The building should be properly sustainable in both environmental and financial terms – designs should seek to minimise operating costs of the building in use [including staff resources].
  • The building should have a minimal carbon footprint.
  • Applicants should demonstrate in the cost information submitted what proportion of the budget will be allocated to achieving the above measures that are central to the project.


  • The building must be fully accessible to all and should comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010. Every aspect of the design must be developed with full regard to the varying needs of the building′s users.
  • The building should also demonstrate innovation in addressing access issues for a wide range of people with different access requirements.


Internal layout

Internally, the building should provide the following functional elements:

  • A secure but welcoming entrance, which should be obvious to visitors arriving by whatever means and offering shelter from the elements.
  • Reception area – the principal arrival point for all visitors. A clear, functional orientation space from which visitors will be readily able to decide where to go next. This could be linked or part of the static/dynamic exhibition areas.
  • Retail space
  • Retail storage space
  • Café with servery attached to kitchen. The café should offer views to the reserve and should have the functionality to be able to open up to extend the dining outside with consideration of weather and shelter.
  • A fully equipped catering standard kitchen suitable for the preparation of all food available within the café.
  • Associated, dedicated kitchen storage space
  • Static exhibition area
  • Studio / large flexible space (with storage cupboard large enough to house chairs/tables) with direct access or vistas onto the reserve with the functionality to extend the studio outside. This space should be capable of accommodating 100+ people in a lecture style arrangement and should have the facility to be blacked out for presentations with good audio−visual facilities. A separate entrance from outside would be useful – to make this a self−contained and secure space. A small kitchen within/attached to it would also be useful. The room should have durable flooring and sinks suitable for messy activities etc. Storage within the room should be provided to facilitate the multi−functional nature of its use. Access to lavatories should be provided.
  • Small treatment rooms x 2 (2.5m x 3m minimum) for the provision of massage, talking therapies, reflexology etc, capable of maintaining confidentiality.
  • Offices to accommodate 6 staff
  • Dynamic exhibition space. This could form part or all of the exhibition area.
  • Meeting room for use by Centre staff, or local organisations. The room must be capable of comfortably accommodating a group of approximately 10 seated adults.
  • Staffroom. A small but comfortable room with chairs and lockers for use by staff preparing or completing their shifts.
  • Toilets – potentially accessible from inside and outside with accessible toilet and baby change facilities
  • Children's toilets, accessible from both inside and outside. This could be comprised of 5 x cubicles (girls), 2 cubicles (boys), 2 urinals or a series of unisex toilets.
  • Area for the hanging of coats, storage of bags and shoes etc. accessible from outside which can be secured. It would be helpful if this was divided into three separate lockable sections for school groups.
  • Education storage area accessible from outside.
  • Outdoor kitchen/catering area.
  • Outside natural play area for children
  • Car recharging points
  • Secure equipment/vehicle storage areas and power charging facilities for accessibility aids such as all−terrain wheelchairs and personal mobility vehicles.Space for bicycle racks and shelter.
  • Space for recycling and bins to service the centre.

The site also requires separate facilities for reserve management staff, their volunteers and equipment. This could consist of a dedicated, purpose−built building designed and fabricated in the same aesthetic as the visitor centre or as an addition to the visitor centre to provide the following:

  • Workshop for machine maintenance
  • Secure equipment/vehicle storage area
  • Space should be provided for up to x3 vehicles, requiring a floor area of approximately 25 square metres
  • Drying room for wet personal clothing, gloves etc
  • Refreshment/rest space for staff and volunteers
  • Training/meeting space capable of accommodating 7 people
  • Vehicle access
  • Secure parking areas for 3 vehicles
  • office space for 5 staff
  • Dry timber store


Great Spotted Woodpecker © Mike Snelle

Site Layout

It is anticipated that the majority of people using the centre will probably arrive by private car and coach, but provision will also need to be made for clear and safe walking routes and cycle routes. Anticipated visitor numbers are 100,000 per annum. Parking will need to be provided for 100 cars, 2/3 coaches, together with provision of informal overflow parking.

In order to make best use of the available project budget, the site layout should seek to utilise and build−upon existing infrastructure wherever possible. From a planning perspective, it may be advantageous for the nature and wellbeing centre building to be accommodated within the footprint of the existing buildings. Designers are welcome to explore alternative layouts in order to maximise the site′s potential but will be expected to make strategic design choices to demonstrate deliverability of the proposals within the stated £2m project budget.

Proposals should include all landscaping costs.

Additional desirable components

  • Elements within or on the exterior of the building that attract wildlife, such as bat hibernaculum and roosting areas, bird boxes, nest box cameras etc.
  • Design ideas for external 'furniture' [such as benches, signposts etc] that are complementary to and/or enhance the design aesthetic would be welcomed, but external 'furniture' does not form part of the contract price.


  • The design solution must be capable of being delivered within a project budget [inclusive of professional fees] in the region of £2m [+VAT]. This has been identified as the preferred scope of fundraising potential. The design solution [and preferably the design and construction process] must therefore have the potential to inspire potential donors.
  • The budget includes the cost of the nature and wellbeing centre build, together with associated immediate infrastructure, site layout and landscape works. The relative proportional split will need to be clearly demonstrated within the refined design proposals to be submitted at Stage 2. The budget includes landscape works in the immediate vicinity and associated with the nature and wellbeing centre.

Please be aware that this brief is aspirational and we may need to compromise or make adaptations.