Dark Sky Observatory nominated for presitigious planning award
Mid Ulster District Council’s OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory at Davagh Forest has been named as a finalist in the category for Excellence in Planning for the Natural Environment at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2021.
The RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence are the most established and respected awards in the UK planning industry. Running for over 40 years, they celebrate exceptional examples of planning and the contribution planners make to society.
The £1.2m facility is located in Davagh Forest in the foothills of the Sperrin mountains, where a lack of light pollution allows unrivalled views of the night sky and makes the site ideal for star-gazing.
Bringing space exploration right down to earth, the OM exhibition uses touch screens, binoculars, mini-telescopes and interpretative panels to help visitors explore our solar system, while donning a virtual reality headset means visitors can witness the birth of a star and the mesmerising Aurora Borealis, day or night.
The centrepiece of the building is the first floor observatory with a retractable roof where the 14 inch LX600 Meade telescope will be in action during special star-gazing events and VIP tours.
As well as the guided exhibition tour, the night-time experience on offer includes the OM Odyssey, an outdoor film screening which either speeds the audience from urban lights into the vastness of the universe or swoops them through an ancient forest, under the fast-flowing Broughderg River before they soar into the sky.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan has welcomed this latest accolade and is hopeful about the outcome. “Mid Ulster is very fortunate to possess this unique and impressive tourist attraction, OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory, within its boundaries," he said. "To be named as a finalist in the Royal Town Planning Institute Awards for Planning Excellence really emphasises the significance and calibre of the building, what it has to offer and the impressive landscape it is set in.
“Mid Ulster District Council has a great track record with the prestigious awards. In the last 5 years the Council has been named as a finalist three times and won its category once. To even be considered again as a finalist in these awards is a remarkable achievement and I am hopeful that this same success can be mirrored on this occasion giving the state-of-the-art and one-of-a-kind facility the recognition it deserves.”
The project has been developed by Mid Ulster District Council, with funding investment of £500k secured from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Rural Tourism Scheme under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 and a further £245k towards the project from the Landfill Tax Fund.
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