National Lottery Heritage Fund Business Plan, Rye Harbour Discovery Centre

Discovery Centre Kt Bruce Sussex Wildlife TrustClient: Sussex Wildlife Trust

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a coastal landscape of outstanding geological, biological, cultural and heritage value on the boundary of East Sussex and Kent. The reserve is home to over 4,000 species of plants and animals, including more than 200 rare or endangered birds and mammals.

The nature reserve is designated as a Special Protection Area, a Special Area of Conservation, a Ramsar site, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Local Nature Reserve.

Over 500 years of military history can be observed, as can the ever-changing coastline. We were commissioned by the Sussex Wildlife Trust to prepare a business plan which supported a successful National Lottery Heritage Fund funding application for the Rye Harbour Discovery Visitor Centre. Our work focused on:

  • Integrating the work carried out by the Activity Planner
  • Identifying how the project delivers strategic outcomes
  • Carrying out an assessment of the market place – existing users of the nature reserve, an analysis of the residential population and tourism marketplace
  • Reviewing comparable case studies of visitor centres operated by other Wildlife Trusts which informed the financial modelling within the business plan
  • Developing a programme of primary visitor research to help identify demand for facilities within the visitor centre
  • Reviewing governance structures
  • Setting out a staffing structure
  • Forecasting future visitor numbers for the visitor centre
  • Preparing a 10-year financial model with sensitivity analysis
  • Setting out the key risk associated with the project

The Rye Harbour Discovery Centre opened in 2021 and acts a gateway to the nature reserve.  The centre incorporates a café, retail space, interpretation / exhibition area and a meeting room alongside facilities for volunteers and staff.  Image – © Kt Bruce

How can we help?
If you have any questions about preparing a business plan or income generation strategy for a visitor attraction or visitor centre or would like to discuss our work please don’t hesitate to call Richard Linington on 07866 742628 or email