Morecambe's Eden Project North still on track despite no mention of funding in Chancellor's Spring Budget
Bosses at Eden Project International and civic, political and educational leaders from across the North West were hoping for some good news in Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Spring Budget.
Eden Project International had asked for £70m in funding from the government to take the project forward, but there was no mention of it in the Budget speech today, March 3.
It has submitted a business case to the Government for £70m towards the total £125m cost of the project, a major new attraction that seeks to reimagine the British seaside resort for the 21st century.
Despite the absence of the announcement, David Harland, Eden Project International Chief Executive, said: “It’s no secret that we were hoping the Government would provide funding for Eden Project North in this Budget, but we are not viewing this as a major setback.
“We were encouraged by the Chancellor’s commitments to levelling-up and a green recovery and we feel Eden Project North fits perfectly with these agendas.
“We are as confident as ever that our case for investment is incredibly strong and we know that many in Government feel the same. We will continue making our case and remain hopeful for good news in a future announcement. Our conversations with private and philanthropic investors are also ongoing.
“We are hugely grateful to the support from our partners, Lancaster University, Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. Thanks to David Morris, Morecambe and Lunesdale MP, and the community in Morecambe for their tireless efforts to help make this project a reality.”
Coun Dr Erica Lewis, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: "
Councillor Dr Erica Lewis, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “Like many I was incredibly disappointed and frustrated that the Chancellor did not announce funding for Eden North as part of his Budget.
“Eden’s business case for the project is sound and the benefits it would bring are unquestioned. It is exactly the sort of ambitious and transformative project which fits in with the Government’s claims of wanting to level up the regions.
“We remain hopeful that the Government will demonstrate its commitment by other means, possibly through the £4.8bn levelling up local investment fund which has opened today. However, it would have been far better if funding had come through directly from the Treasury, rather than forcing us down the route of a competitive bidding process which is often no more than a glorified beauty contest.
“Along with all our partners we will continue to press the case for Government investment in Eden North to realise the economic, social and environmental benefits it would bring.”
Luke Hall, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, told Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris in parliament recently that the project is "exactly the kind of project that the Government wish to support".The Eden Project said it will continue work on preparing a planning application, which is due to be submitted later this year.
Eden Project North is due to open in 2024.
Eden’s business case shows that the project can be a key driver for a post-Covid green recovery in the North West. 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 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 since opening in 2001. In recent years, it has continued to attract around 1m visitors a year.
Ross Shine, head of real estate at independent law firm Brabners, which has been supporting Lancaster City Council throughout the development process, including helping agree a deal to lease the site to Eden during design, planning and development, said: “While there were a number of things for business leaders in Lancashire to be positive about in the Chancellor’s speech, the absence of funding for Eden Project North is hugely disappointing given recent campaigning.
"It’s clear from the government’s building back better narrative that the next decade will see a rapid upscaling of sustainable industries in the UK which will be vital to the region’s levelling up ambitions.
"The Eden Project is perfectly aligned in this respect and would accelerate the pace at which the North can seize the opportunity presented by this green revolution.”
There was also no mention of Heysham Port getting "freeport" status, as suggested in 2019, when Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss visited the Seatruck Ferries offices at Heysham port to discuss the potential of this.
Eight other sites across England were announced as "freeport" locations.