Work starts on new visitor centre and café at Needham Lake

Work on a new visitor centre and café officially starts at Needham Lake

Councillors and representatives met at the site of the new project at Needham Lake on Wednesday to mark the start of the work. - Credit: Mid Suffolk District Council

Work to build a new visitor centre and café at a popular Needham Market beauty spot has started. 

It is hoped the new facilities at Needham Lake will boost visitor numbers, support the local economy and encourage more people to enjoy outdoor leisure pursuits. 

The project at the lake, which is already one of the most visited free attractions in the region, will also include a community events space and a Changing Places facility with fully accessible and spacious toilets. 

Representatives from Mid Suffolk District Council, contractors SEH French, café operator 127 Trading and advisors from Mid Suffolk Growth Ltd visited the site on Tuesday to celebrate the start of the project. 

Julie Flatman, councillor at Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “I am delighted we have been able to mark the start of this important project for Needham Lake.

"Not only will the new facilities, event space and café be a welcome addition for the local community, but the introduction of the Changing Places facility will make this an accessible attraction for everyone to enjoy.”

The new building has been designed to complement the surrounding natural environment, with several green features including the introduction of bird boxes for feathered residents. 

The building will feature solar panels, sustainable drainage and an air source heat pump.

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Sustainable materials will be used as part of the build.

The council said the wooden play area adjacent to the site of the new café and visitor centre may need to be closed during the initial construction phase, in order to keep visitors safe.

The play equipment located near the toilet block will remain open.

 An artist’s impression of the new café and visitor centre at Needham Lake

An artist’s impression of the new café and visitor centre at Needham Lake - Credit: Mid Suffolk District Council

Simon Girling, director at SEH French, said: “Needham Lake is one of our county’s gems and, once complete, the new café and visitor centre will improve the experience of residents and visitors alike. 

“As a local firm, we are very excited to deliver this project and make Needham Market an even more attractive place to visit.

"We look forward to working on behalf of Mid Suffolk District Council to deliver its vision to not only boost the visitor experience, but also for  community groups to use and enjoy.”

The café will be run by the team behind Cabbages and Kings, the popular café at The Mix in Stowmarket.

It will offer a range of seasonal meals, snacks, drinks and ice-creams throughout the year.

As the building work is underway, the team will continue to run the kiosk for visitors.

Keith Myers, manager of Cabbages and Kings, said: “It’s been really exciting to be involved in the planning for the new café and visitor centre and setting out how our vision for fresh, seasonal food will meet the needs of visitors to the area.

"Throughout the summer, we will continue to serve hot and cold drinks and ice-creams before we can welcome customers to the new café.”

The work will include improving links from Needham Lake to Needham Market town centre . Picture: ARC

The lake is already one of the most visited free attractions in the region - Credit: Archant

Richard Gawthorpe, director of Mid Suffolk Growth - which is a joint venture between Mid Suffolk District Council and Norse Group - said: “We are really delighted to be part of this inspiring project, and excited that as Mid Suffolk Growth, we are able to support the delivery of a visitor centre, that has sustainable design at its heart, and which will perfectly complement the natural environment.”

The project is part of the council's Invest in Needham Market programme, which also includes improving the connectivity between Needham Lake and the town and the new homes development at the former council headquarters and middle school sites.