All systems go for Eden Project Morecambe: Boss reveals exactly when building work will begin in interview with Lancaster Guardian
and live on Freeview channel 276
And while we may not have seen much action on the promenade site, except for some initial ground checks, Si Bellamy, executive director of Eden Project, said work has been constant behind the scenes since the announcement was made.
The project is "right on track", he confirmed during an chat with the Lancaster Guardian as part of a flying visit to Morecambe this week.
However, with plenty of legwork still to do, Si confirmed it's unlikely we'll see a 'spade in the ground' before next summer at the earliest.
"Literally from the Monday after the announcement, we were in contact with Lancaster City Council and all the other partners to start going through the process of scrutinising the bid and the whole project," he said.
"Our relationship and partnership with Lancaster City Council is incredibly important, likewise with the county council and Lancaster University.
"Everyone has stakes in this and it happens together."
"It's a flagship scheme as part of a government policy and so rightly it goes through a lot of government scrutiny.
"We are now in that process. We can only go as fast as that goes but they are working really hard to get us through that.
"We expect an outcome in late summer or early autumn from that process."
Raising the further £50m in funding has been the Eden team's other priority - this could be through various options including investors, crowdfunding and philanthropy.
And with interest rates rising, Si admitted the project "will have to respond".
"Things are moving with the project but not in a static landscape," he said. "It was going to cost £100m so we are looking at that again to see what we can do for that money.
"We have a brilliant team who are super committed and we have got the support behind us; it's a highly professional operation and we will be working to get the best outcome for Morecambe.
"We want to deliver an incredible experience and that won't change.
"We are working diligently and methodically - it's all about the preparation.
"If we do that we will have a better outcome.
"This is a transformational project - the legacy for Morecambe is the most important thing to get right. The history of Eden Project Morecambe starts now."
The following stage will be to set out a procurement strategy, before going into an expressions of interest and tender process early to mid-2024 in a variety of fields such as technical, consultancy and construction, ready to start work on site late summer/early autumn 2024.
"The last six months have been about laying the most solid foundations and from that we will be able to go more quickly later in the programme," Si said.
"We have spent years getting to this stage and everything is on track. From now until the end of the year it's a lot of behind the scenes work.
"We will be doing a lot of detailed design work and then next summer to early autumn we will start a two-year construction stage."
Opening is expected at the end of 2026, with test events planned for the site and a soft opening for the local community.
The eco-attraction – which was given planning consent by Lancaster City Council in January 2022 – is expected to transform Morecambe promenade.
It will feature shell-like domes, with indoor and outdoor attractions themed around Morecambe Bay, as well as a 6,000 seater concert venue.
The site will combine exhibits, performance, learning, play, immersive experiences, world-class horticulture, live music, art, food, drink and retail spaces, all integrated as essential parts of the overall experience.
And with around 10.5m people living within two-and-a-half hours' travel time of Morecambe - compared to around 2.5m within a similar distance of Cornwall's Eden Project - the development will be vital to Morecambe's future.
Coun Catherine Potter, cabinet member for visitor economy, community wealth building and culture, said it was important for the whole community to see the benefits.
"This is such an important transformational project for this town and the district as a whole," she said.
"We want it to benefit the whole of the local economy. We will be talking to other areas of local tourism because we want to encourage people to stay in the area for longer, and also to have enough things to do for a repeat visit.
"We want to maximise the potential of Eden. Morecambe is going to be unrecognisable as a tourism destination and will be an amazing place to live."
Coun Potter said the council would also be looking out for local residents who might have any concerns, such as over transport and housing issues.
"We will look at what people don't want to see as a result of this development and see how we can protect ourselves," she said.
The long-standing Eden community conversations, which run online over Zoom, are continuing this year, with the next one due to be held on Friday June 30 at 1pm.
The events give the public the chance to find out the latest news on Eden and also ask the team their own questions.
Eden Project Morecambe timeline
June to end of 2023: Preparation of the project
January to summer 2024: Detailed design, procurement, shaping of project
Summer/early autumn 2024 to late summer/early autumn 2026: Construction phase
Late 2026: Soft opening