PLANS are moving forward for a new laboratory for school pupils at the Earth Trust’s headquarters near Didcot.

A major expansion of learning facilities is under way at the trust’s base in Little Wittenham.

The trust’s website said work on the project - the Earth Lab - will be taking place throughout 2019.

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It said: “Earth Lab will be at the heart of the Earth Trust Centre, providing a stimulating, interactive and inspirational education space.

“It will be designed in sympathy with the surrounding landscape, augmenting the natural beauty of our stunning site and providing a seamless flow from indoor to outdoor learning areas.

Oxford Mail:

“Our vision is for classrooms which are ‘alive’, perhaps including see-through pipes and a living plant wall to provide hands-on immersive experiences of ecosystems, which fully engage our learners with the environment around them.”

Trust chief executive Jayne Manley, said earlier: “Earth Lab will be at the heart of Earth Trust Gateway, providing a stimulating, inspirational education space.

Oxford Mail:

“Supporting our objective to engage people with their environment, learning opportunities will be built into the fabric of the structure itself.

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“The aim is to use the building as a demonstration of sustainability in action, through the design, materials and construction methods used, together with the services on which the building will depend.”

Oxford Mail:

The website added: “Earth Lab will have learning opportunities built into the fabric of the structure itself. The aim is to use the building as a demonstration; to show sustainability in action through the materials and construction methods used. Earth Trust will be using sustainable materials, techniques and technology that are available to the mass-market.”

Oxford Mail:

Ellie Lasota, of White Design, said: “This amazing building, the Earth Lab, will capture and lock in over 16 tonnes of atmospheric Co2 through its exposed timber frames and straw-insulated wall panels.”

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As well as creating the new education space, White Design will be transforming the current learning barn into a new Innovation Hub, which will act as a welcome centre for visitors.

In 2017 the trust won approval for a £5m revamp of its popular education centre but the plans were then updated.

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The Earth Trust was founded as the Northmoor Trust for Countryside Conservation in 1967 with an endowment from patrons Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood.

It acquired Little Wittenham Wood in 1982, followed by Wittenham Clumps and surrounding farmland.

The trust said the clumps get more visits than any other ‘free-to-access green space’ in south east England – more than 150,000 a year.

Managers at the Earth Trust have explained that the big blue balls in the design images are a representation of the enormous amount of Co2 the building will capture and store in the materials.

The single blue ball represents one tonne, and the multiple balls represent 35 tonnes, which it has been calculated the total building of Earth Lab will store and capture.

The scaling of the balls against a drawn-to-scale building is intended to create a 'wow factor' in showing how much Co2 is being captured.