Councillors on the local authority’s planning committee voted unanimously in favour of the long-awaited planning application today, Monday January 31, at a meeting held in Morecambe.
Hundreds of jobs are expected to be created with the new seafront venue, which is linked to the Eden Project in Cornwall but will be distinctly focused on Morecambe Bay.
The bay area is of international importance to wildlife including migrating birds from across the world and is described by Eden Project as having some of the finest views in England.
It is also seen as a good location between Lancashire, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District for a more-sustainable type of tourism. The economic boost of the new development could benefit Morecambe, Lancaster and wider bay region, Eden Project believes.
In Morecambe, the new attraction will be built on the seafront at Marine Road. The location is close to various Grade II-listed buildings including the restored art deco Midland Hotel and the Winter Gardens, a venue once known as the ‘Albert Hall of the North’ which is currently being renovated as a concert and events hall.
Visitor numbers at the new Eden North could reach up to one million a year, according to the planning application. The new attraction will have three main areas and should be able to hold up to 4,000 visitors a day. It is expected to attract an average of 750,000 customers each year,
Councillors heard the updated proposals include main zones designed around themes of the bay, above and below the bay, human well-being and an observatory.
Bay Hall: This will be a flexible exhibition area and visitor orientation space, which could be the meeting point for guided activities.
The Rhythm Machine: This area will provide ‘Above and Bay’ and ‘Below the Bay’ experiences. This will include a ‘hyper-real forest ‘along with other large installations and sculptures and an immersive theatre representing lunar rhythms.
The Bay Glade: This will provide an indoor landscape with a focus on well-being.
There will also be a Natural Observatory, which will the home of Eden Project North’s research and education programmes.
Councillors were told the buildings would include shell-shaped pavilions connected to provide a sand dune lanscape appearance, with a rolling roof covered in coastal plants.
The site will include exhibits, performance space, learning, play and immersive experiences, alongside three café-restaurants, a visitor centre and retail space. Overall, the range of indoor and outdoor experiences are designed to connect people with Morecambe, councillors were told.
Eden Project hopes the new site will open in 2024 with a building period of two years.
The proposed development will directly employ around 390 full-time equivalent staff with a maximum of 280 workers on-site at any given time.
The maximum opening hours would be 9am to 9pm daily outside the summer months, and 9am to midnight during the summer.
In addition to the main venue, an outdoor arena holding up to 6,000 people is included in the proposals. Up to eight late-evening events are planned each year during summer, between 6pm and midnight.
Eden North is holding regular online community forums this year to discuss different aspects of its plans and activities. The latest forum in January discussed tourism opportunities in quieter winter months. Speakers included Eden Project staff, RSPB and business community representatives plus local small businesses and craftspeople.