'Shovel-ready' Eden Project North 'has potential to drive post-Covid recovery in north west' says Government minister
The Government minister for growth has backed Morecambe's bid for an Eden Project North and said it is "exactly the kind of project that the Government wish to support".
Morecambe MP David Morris held an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday to discuss the economic benefits of the Eden Project in Morecambe.
The third debate Mr Morris has held on this project comes following the Eden team’s submission of a business case to the Government.
The purpose of the debate was to further make the case for Government funding of the project following a number of productive discussions with ministers.
During the Debate Mr Morris said: "We must be seen to deliver on investment across the north. Levelling up does not mean investing only in Manchester, Liverpool or Leeds - the major cities - but levelling up all across the north west.
"Can the Minister reassure the people of the north west, and specifically Morecambe and the Lancaster region, that they will not be forgotten, because Eden Project North will have a huge positive impact across Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire?
"It is within easy reach of the north’s urban centres. We are only about 40 minutes away from Manchester. We are about 20 minutes away from Preston, and looking further north, we can be in Scotland within an hour and a half.
"I would like to see some indication of at what fiscal event Eden Project North will be able to attract match funding. The Eden Project has already got £55m on the table and ready to go, and we now need some Government investment to make it happen - to get the bulldozers in there to start turning around the fortunes of Morecambe and the Lancaster district and to help turn around the fortunes of the north west and its tourism."
Local Government Minister Luke Hall said in concluding his remarks in the debate: "My hon. Friend asked for confirmation that Eden Project North is exactly the kind of project that this Government wish to support.
"Although I hope he will understand that I cannot make a decision today, I can give him that assurance. Proposals like Eden Project North are part and parcel of our core agenda to secure a vibrant and prosperous north and level up every part of our country.
"As my hon. Friend has said, this project has the potential to make an economic impact reaching far beyond the town itself, across the whole of Lancashire and, indeed, the northern powerhouse. It has the potential to create high quality, new, green economy jobs, which are needed in the north.
"The north has many areas of outstanding natural beauty, and this project could be an important part of the wider tourism offer, reimagining coastal communities for the 21st century, not just as an international visitor destination, but as a real asset in the region’s post-Covid economic recovery.
"As my hon. Friend said, the fact that it is shovel-ready means that it has real potential to drive local recovery and advance the post-covid economic growth in the north.
"I look forward to continued conversations with my hon. Friend on this important proposal, and I thank him again for being such a champion of this proposal and his constituents."
David Harland, chief executive of Eden Project International, said: “We’re grateful to David Morris for continuing to make the case for Eden Project North to the Government and thank him for his supportive words in Parliament.
"We'd also like to thank Luke Hall, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, for his encouraging response and support.
"Eden Project North will have huge economic, environmental and social benefits to both the Morecambe area and wider north west region. We are confident that we have made the strong case for positive investment from the Government.
"Our track record in Cornwall shows that Eden Projects can return economic impact far outweighing their cost and our firm belief is that Eden Project North will be a key driver of the Government’s levelling-up agenda and a post-Covid green recovery for the north.”
Following the debate Mr Morris said: "I would like to thank Luke Hall for his endorsement of the Eden Project Morecambe and his support so far for the project.
"The project has strong support from all local partners, which enables us to make a strong case to Government. The project has already been endorsed by two previous Chancellors and I am currently having ongoing discussions with both the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Treasury Minister Steve Barclay to ensure that we push this project over the final hurdle and secure Government support.
"I have been championing this project for nearly four years now, and this is because I believe that it has the potential to be a game changer for our area and once built will ensure that Morecambe is the jewel in the crown of the whole north west. I will make sure we secure the funding we need to make this project a reality."
Eden, which is working on the Morecambe project with partners Lancaster University, Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, has submitted a business case to the Government.
The 140-page document makes the case for £70m of Government investment in Eden Project North, a major new exemplar attraction in Morecambe that seeks to reimagine the British seaside resort for the 21st century.
The report presents Eden Project North as a key driver of the UK’s post-Covid green recovery and shows that it is a “shovel-ready” project which would deliver significant economic, environmental and social benefits for Lancashire and the wider north west region, as well as contributing to the wider levelling-up agenda and the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan.
Eden Project North is projected to attract around one million visitors a year and directly employ more than 400 people. The business case estimates a visitor spend of more than £200m per year in the region (not including money spent at Eden Project North) which would support an additional 1,500 jobs.
Eden Project North, says the report, is poised to contribute to the UK’s carbon net zero and green jobs targets, both directly through its operations and through green education programmes delivered with Lancaster University.
In total, the business case projects that the eventual cost of Eden Project North will be £125m. Eden is seeking a mixture of private and public funds to make up the difference beyond any central Government funding.
Eden Project North is being delivered by the team behind the first Eden Project in Cornwall and is one of the key projects in Eden’s plans to expand around the UK and the world.
The team has a proven track record of delivering regeneration projects, with Eden in Cornwall transforming a former china clay pit, which was sterile, unstable and had no soil, into the world-class destination it is today.
Eden in Cornwall cost £141m to build and to date has welcomed more than 22 million visitors and added more than £2bn to the regional economy since opening in 2001. In recent years, it has continued to attract around 1m visitors a year.
Eden is currently hosting a series of open online community conversations about the plans for Eden Project North, with the next one due to take place on Friday February 19 at 1pm. For more information, see here.