The planning application for the £85m Eden Project North in Morecambe is now likely to appear at the end of this year or early 2021, after its delivery company initially targeted a submission this spring.
However, David Harland, chief executive of Eden Project International, said he was adamant that the company and its regional council partners “remain absolutely committed” to delivering the leisure attraction, and the targeted 2023 completion date remains the same.
Harland said: “We’re going to get this done in Morecambe. The partners really want this, and we haven’t fought this hard to stop now.”
Eden Project International revealed its proposals in 2018 for the Grimshaw-designed Eden Project North built on a waterfront site at Morecambe Bay. The project would be an immersive visitor experience housed across a series of mussel shell-shaped domes, intended to emulate the success of the Eden Project in Cornwall.
The team behind the project had been targeting spring this year to submit the planning application for the project. However, as a scheme largely dependent on Government funding, Eden Project North had already faced political uncertainty on the back of the general election last year, and Brexit.
Harland told Place North West: “Even though local authorities are bearing the brunt [of the pandemic] right now, they’re still doing a lot of planning for after coronavirus has passed.
“We’ve been in frequent dialogue with our regional partners on weekly calls and they are absolutely committed to the scheme.
“We are getting ourselves ready, doing as many planning reports and fundraising activities as possible in the background.”
Although Harland said the application should now be expected “at the end of this year, or early next”, he said the organisation was eyeing the same completion date.
“We are trying to keep to the 2023 completion date, although the further this [Covid-19 lockdown] continues the harder it gets,” he said.
“The general election and the change of chancellor have been a factor, but we’re still in fortnightly calls with the Government, which is encouraging when talking to Government is hard for anyone right now.”
Harland also acknowledged that Eden, with its conservation ethos and focus on environment, would be a timely development for the country as it emerges from lockdown with a potentially renewed focus on growth in line with climate change targets.
“For Morecambe, this is an opportunity to get lots of people working at a time when jobs will be needed more than ever, and giving the sense that we are still going places, but in an environmentally friendly way.
“Eden exists to connect people to the natural world, and the virus has shown how connected we are to that natural world and to each other. The climate change story is stronger than ever, in fact even more relevant, even if during this time it has been on a hiatus.”
The land deal needed to progress the scheme completed in March with the former site of the Domes & Bubbles leisure complex let to Eden with an option to purchase the land once funding and planning permission is granted.
To finance the early stage design and planning, Eden received £250,000 from each of Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Lancaster University, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council, as well as £100,000 pledged by the Government.
However, the full delivery of the project relies on more extensive Government backing. Harland has said previously that some of the funding for the £84m scheme would be sourced from Government, in part from the £281m Stronger Towns Fund.
WSP advises Eden Project International on planning.
Eden estimates that Eden Project North would attract around 760,000 visitors per year, but will be designed to accommodate up to one million, with a daily capacity of 4,000 people.