Plans continue to progress for an Eden Project to be developed in Morecambe, and the scheme was the subject of a government visit to the town.
Minister for Transport Nus Ghani MP visited Morecambe today, Thursday, to see for herself the plans for Eden Project North and meet some of the people behind the scheme.
The £84.8m plans for the former Bubbles/Dome site on Morecambe prom include biomes shaped like mussels and a focus on the marine environment.
There would also be reimagined lidos, gardens, performance spaces, immersive experiences and observatories.
It is believed the project would attract 2-3,000 people a day in peak times, and bring huge economic benefits to the district.
Eden Trust chairman Edward Benthall said everyone behind the scenes is excited about the plans.
He said: “There are two projects which Eden does really well; one is to help connect people to the natural world and this is the most wonderful opportunity to connect people from the town and visitors to this extraordinary piece of natural world.
“The other thing we are very involved with is community. We work very hard with supporting and building communities all over the country.
“This is the most incredibly exciting project for us because it’s the opportunity to build an Eden project next to a busy, thriving town with its deep cultural history and its tradition of bringing people from all over the north of England to celebrate the sea.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to build on that heritage and build a world-leading destination.
“Everybody is really excited about the potential that the Eden Project can bring here and there’s a real sense that we can do this together and bring hope and dynamism back into the community and everyone seems to be behind it.
“I honestly can’t remember a time in other areas where we have had such strong local support from the community and we don’t take that for granted.
“We have got to keep building on that trust.
“Having raised that aspiration and got that support we now cannot let them down, because already expectations are so high.”
Land security for the site is likely to be finalised by July, and it is expected that a planning application for the scheme will be submitted to the city council by March 2020, with work to begin towards the end of next year.
Building is expected to be completed by the end of 2022 with a planned opening date of spring 2023.
“There is a lot that has to go right to achieve all that,” Edward said. “There’s plenty that could go wrong but that is our goal and we are committed to making that happen.”
Alongside public sector funding, £250,000 each from the city and county councils, the Lancashire Enterprise Parnership and Lancaster University, around £40m in government funding is needed to help make the project a reality.
Ms Ghani said: “The project is not just about the experience for visitors, but about reinvigorating the area and making it a go to region.
“I have seen the plans on paper so it is fantastic to see them in person too.
“I really wanted to see what it felt like here and I will take that back. It’s great to see a project that will bring huge dividends to the community and I will link with my department to make sure the plans go forward.”
Morecambe & Lunesdale MP David Morris, who invited Ms Ghani to the town, said: “Eden are heavily invested in our area. They are a prestigious brand and we are really lucky to have them coming to Morecambe.
“This visit shows we are being taken seriously.
“We now need £40m in government money to make this a reality and I am doing my best to get that.
“Political groups in this area will be working together on this because we all want Morecambe to be on the up.
“This could be seen as a beacon for other seaside regeneration projects around the country.”