Eden Project Morecambe: Here's what happens next

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Morecambe finally got the news it had been waiting for this week when the town’s Eden Project was awarded £50m government funding.

But what comes next now the cash has been secured?

Ground tests, private investment and an early phase of recruitment will be among the first steps.

Transport needs, including calls for railway electrification and other improvements in Morecambe and beyond, also need more work, it has been said.

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Impression of Eden Project Morecambe at sunset.Impression of Eden Project Morecambe at sunset.
Impression of Eden Project Morecambe at sunset.

After the government announced it will put £50million from levelling up funds towards the Morecambe Bay eco-attraction, Eden Project representatives and councillors in Morecambe, Heysham and Lancaster have spoken about the next phases and their reactions to the funding news.

They spoke as prime minister Rishi Sunak was in Morecambe on Thursday, highlighting a range of government funded projects across the north west.

In Morecambe, the government’s £50million contribution now needs to be matched by another £50million from private investors and philanthropist donors. A total of £100million is needed for Eden Project Morecambe.

As the lead for the partnership bid, Lancaster City Council will be the recipient of the funding and will work with partners to allocate it in line with government requirements. With six political groups, the council has a wide spectrum of opinion and councillors have highlighted their work across traditional party boundaries.

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Lancaster City Council discuss Eden Project Morecambe.Lancaster City Council discuss Eden Project Morecambe.
Lancaster City Council discuss Eden Project Morecambe.

Eden Project representatives said preparatory ground work will now be undertaken at the Morecambe seafront site, which is vital before construction begins. The organisation said it will keep the community informed about the construction schedule through social media, local news media and community events.

An expanded project delivery team will be created in preparation for the construction phase. Details of the first round of recruitment are to be announced soon.

Around 300 high-quality green jobs will be directly created, with more than 1,000 additional new jobs supported in the region, said the Eden Project. Preparation for construction will start this year and the aim is for Eden to be open by 2026.

Partner organisations include Lancaster University, Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

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How Eden Project Morecambe might look.How Eden Project Morecambe might look.
How Eden Project Morecambe might look.

Rob Chatwin, Eden Project’s group chief executive, said: “This is a historic moment for Morecambe and the surrounding area and for the Eden Project and our partners.

“We are delighted that Eden Project Morecambe has been recognised as part of the Levelling Up fund and we are incredibly grateful to the government, our partners, David Morris MP and the unique community of Morecambe for their wholehearted support. This is a ringing endorsement of the teamwork that has brought Eden Project Morecambe to this point. We will now continue to work hard with our partners to make this vision a reality.”

Coun Caroline Jackson, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “Here in the Lancaster district we are celebrating the way a uniquely local vision has been turned into an exciting reality. I’m particularly delighted with the new name – Eden Project Morecambe – which confirms its place at the very heart of our community.

“The town is once more very firmly on the map. It has taken hard work and a powerful partnership to reach this moment. My thanks go to all who worked so tirelessly in putting together the comprehensive bid. This is fantastic news and presents a once in a generation opportunity to reinvent and rejuvenate Morecambe into a 21st-century seaside resort and I’m excited to see work start this year.”

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MP for Morecambe, David Morris.MP for Morecambe, David Morris.
MP for Morecambe, David Morris.

Phillippa Williamson, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “This exciting transformational project will bring a huge boost to Morecambe and its economy, supporting the work we are collectively doing towards levelling up and supporting our future ambitions for the county. “

Debbie Francis is from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), a body which includes councillors, business representatives and education bodies such as the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN). The partnership has contributed £1.2million of government Growth Deal funding for Lancashre to the Eden scheme at Morecambe.

She said: “Eden Project Morecambe is a truly transformational scheme that embodies the ethos of levelling up and shows what can be achieved through partnership working.

“The project will have an immense economic, social and environmental impact on the county. Eden is an international brand which will not only attract visitors to the area, but will create significant job opportunities directly and indirectly in our local supply chains, stimulating growth in some of our key sectors, as well as enhancing our already significant environmental research expertise.

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“The LEP looks forward to continuing to work with all partners as the project progresses to the next stage.”

Sarah Kemp, Lancaster University pro vice-chancellor for engagement, said: “As an anchor institution we are deeply invested in the health and vitality of our regional economy and the university has long championed the idea of Eden coming to the north of England.

Coun Caroline Jackson, leader of Lancaster City Council.Coun Caroline Jackson, leader of Lancaster City Council.
Coun Caroline Jackson, leader of Lancaster City Council.

“We are delighted to see that idea taking a step closer to becoming a reality and look forward to building on our partnerships, bringing the full strength of Lancaster University’s research expertise in environment, sustainability and enterprise power to the table for the benefit of our region.”

David Morris, Morecambe MP, said: “Five years of work has finally come to fruition and after lobbying four Prime Ministers and six chancellors and more meetings and debates in parliament than I can count, I am absolutely delighted we have secured the funding for this project to go ahead.

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“What started off as a dream has now become reality and this will secure prosperity in Morecambe for generations to come. This decision has quite literally changed Morecambe forever.”

‘Great endeavour, achievement, immense new hope and relief’

Councillors at Lancaster City Council have spoken about the long journey to get government backing for the Eden project and their joy, relief, tension and uncertainty along the way.

Leader Coun Caroline Jackson paid tribute to hard work by many people in getting to this point. She also reflected on roller-coaster experiences of hope, doubt, relief and excitement so far.

She said: “This is wonderful news, but it is also a fantastic relief – we have been waiting and hoping for an announcement for six months or more. There were times when we wondered whether the Levelling-Up Round 2 would ever be announced. But at last it has come and we can look ahead for the huge benefits the Eden Morecambe project will bring.

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“It’s the biggest news Morecambe has had in decades and it is going to make a difference to people’s lives here for decades to come. In the simplest terms it will bring jobs, visitors and money back to Morecambe.

“Morecambe will be able to do the thing it excels at – bringing a great day out, well-being, entertainment and beautiful surroundings to visitors’ lives.

“Levelling up is supposed to be about regeneration, opportunity and improvement to people’s lives. This project has the potential to do all of that and at speed in a place that has seen over many years, growing economic difficulties leading to poverty, ill health and poor life chances.

“I don’t think it is surprising that Eden Morecambe has gained the largest amount of Levelling Up funding available. It reflects the greatest need and the greatest opportunity.”

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She added: “The Eden team itself has made a huge impact on Morecambe already. There has always been a genuine willingness to listen and to respect the community which rapidly gained people’s trust.

“The Morecambe Bay curriculum, which is already working in schools across Morecambe and Lancaster, has brought a new dimension to education from nursery children to university students. The curriculum is rooted in place as the Eden project itself will be.

“The benefits of Eden Morecambe will be felt across the district and the region – we already know how this has happened in Cornwall. We expect a thousand or more jobs to be supported in Morecambe and beyond as businesses in the area cater for more visitors and visitors look for other places to visit alongside Eden. We very much welcome the Eden commitment to sustainable procurement within the region and the boost that will give to local economies in Lancashire.”

Reflecting over the past few years Coun Jackson said: “The project so far has taken four years or more. It is an amazing example of what real collaboration between committed partners can do.

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"The city council itself, for all its diversity of political views in the chamber, has been unanimous in its support for Eden. The local MP, David Morris, has been active in his involvement. Lancaster City Council, Lancaster University, Lancashire County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership have all contributed uniquely, offering their time, expertise and finance to support Eden in bringing the project from its initial concept to this point where it becomes reality.

“There is still a great deal to do before Eden Morecambe lies before us, its beautiful shell shapes glinting in the sun and beyond it the bay and hills. However, I think this is a moment for celebrating great endeavour, great achievement and immense new hope for the future here in Morecambe, in Lancaster district and the region.”

‘This is the most important development since the railway came to Morecambe’

Transport improvements in Morecambe and beyond, local businesses, supply chains and tourism in the Morecambe Bay and wider Lake District region were mentioned by councillors from Lancaster City Council.

Coun Kevin Frea, deputy leader of the council, said: “The Eden announcement is a brilliant follow-up to the council declaration of an ecological emergency. The Eden Project is committed to building relationships between people and the planet to demonstrate the power of working together for the benefit of all living things.

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“Eden Project Morecambe will showcase the many special natural features of Morecambe Bay in its biodome structures.

“Now we need to get the public transport infrastructure in place in time for the opening so that the many environmental benefits are not discounted by carbon-intensive travel to Morecambe from across the UK.”

Transport needs were also highlighted by Coun Gina Dowding, who is a city council cabinet member with a planning remit and a former Green MEP.

She said: “This fantastic news about Eden coming to Morecambe gives us an opportunity to push for a ‘whole systems approach’ to a sustainable visitor experience. This includes, of course, the transport system and how people get here.

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“Eden gives momentum for investment in low carbon sustainable transport – at least the electrification of the rail network from Lancaster to Morecambe and the whole Skipton line.

“These wider discussions have been part of the planning for Eden and I am sure they will remain key across all political parties on the council.”

There are historic links between Morecambe, Skipton, the Aire Valley, Bradford and Leeds, owing to the Victorian railway network’s development. Morecambe became popular as a holiday resort with people in the old West Riding of Yorkshire. Later the art deco Midland Hotel was developed by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company.

Today the Yorkshire-Morecambe family traditions and train links continue, using the rail route through Carnforth, Wennington, Bentham and Long Preston to Skipton, Bradford and Leeds.

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Coun Cary Matthews is a cabinet member, a Heysham representative and also Morecambe Town Council chairman.

She said: “I am overwhelmed that Eden has been given the green light. The town has been awaiting this decision for a number of years and the development will breathe new life into Morecambe.

“This funding is thought to be the single, largest ever investment into our town and is especially welcome at a time of major economic challenge. It will transform the area and unlock the huge potential of culture to enrich lives, communities and local businesses in the north. It will ensure Morecambe is a better place to live, work and raise a family for years to come.”

Coun Matthews is also involved with the Morecambe Business Investment District (BID) group. This sees local firms in a zone paying an extra tax, known as a levy, towards town centre improvements.

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Coun Matthews said the group had appreciated working with the combined administration at Lancaster City Council under the leadership of Coun Jackson, adding: “Her inclusive and informative way of leading has brought results in all areas of the council’s work.

“This approach has also been the way I have chaired at Morecambe Town Council. No ‘us and them’. Just us, as elected members, serving our community. Again, this has brought results that benefit all the communities we represent across the district.”

Looking ahead, she said: “It is my sincere hope that all that has been sown will truly blossom and grow. That lessons learned will become the building blocks we stand on for the future benefit for our district.”

Coun Darren Clifford said: “As a cabinet member for tourism in 2017, I moved the resolution at cabinet to fund the feasibility study into the project in June that year. There has been a long and sometimes frustrating process to get us to this point but, be in no doubt, this is the most important development for Morecambe since the arrival of the railway, It is that important.”

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Coun Erica Lewis, a former leader of the council, said the Eden Morecambe idea has connections going back to a Lancaster University student’s work some years ago.

She said: “Securing the funding for Eden has truly been a team effort and shows the best of Morecambe and the district. An idea that started on the university campus, as a master degree project, is now well on its way to being a world class visitor attraction.

“Eden Project has committed to the principles of community wealth building. That means local suppliers, jobs and training for local people, support for community projects and a sustainable approach to building and operation.

“Congratulations to everyone who has played a part in getting Eden Project Morecambe.”

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Sandra Thornberry is a councillor with arts, culture, leisure and well-being remits on the city council cabinet.

She said: “Eden will be such an exciting attraction for our district and will stimulate a huge rise in visitor numbers in Morecambe. We have all spent a long time hoping for this award and know what a significant and welcome difference it will make.

"It has gained planning permission from the city council and I now look forward to seeing work creating the mussel-shaped domes start on the site very soon.”

Coun David Whitaker, a Morecambe representative, said: “This will be a catalyst for change to the prospects for Morecambe regarding regeneration and opportunity. However, I do hope the jobs are aimed at local people both in construction of the site and later, the operation and management .

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“We don`t want to create gentrification where poorer people are forced out of housing due to rising costs. The Eden Project needs to benefit all residents in Morecambe.”

Another Morecambe councillor, Margaret Pattison, said: “As county and city councillor, I am over the moon that Morecambe has won the Levelling Up bid for Eden. For the last few years, we have campaigned, been invited to presentations and also listened to great ideas from local residents.

“Morecambe residents have waited long enough for this announcement and they deserve work in our town, raising tourism and the economy. At one of the presentations, I remember someone saying Morecambe is the best kept secret they had ever known with the views and the bay. Now, we can now put Morecambe on the map.”

Coun Colin Hartley is chairman of the city council’s licensing committee. It deals with some public transport matters such as taxis and recent plans for rickshaw-style pedicabs on Morecambe’s promenade around the Eden site, Midland Hotel and Heysham.

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He said: “The Labour group of councillors have always fully supported the Eden initiative from its inception. Along with other councillors, we voted to provide a quarter of a million pounds funding towards the planning application. We voted to provide the land on which Eden Project Morecambe will be built.

“It has already been said it’ll be a game-changer and a catalyst for Morecambe to grow and to become, once again, a significant destination on the tourist trail. But it will also be beneficial to the whole, wider area including the Lakes. It really is a win win situation all round.

“Finally, it must be stressed that this achievement is as a result of massive support of residents and others across the district of all political persuasions and none. It has been a real collaborative effort. Yes, even David Morris MP played a part!”