Can £85 million Eden Project North revive Morecambe’s fortunes?

Morecambe could see up to one million visitors a year under plans to build a northern version of Cornwall’s Eden Project at the seaside town.

An environmental impact assessment scoping report has recently been submitted to Lancaster City Council, ahead of the preparation of the full environmental impact assessment and planning application for the proposed development. Submitted by Eden Project International, the report includes more information on what is planned for the coastal attraction.

The scheme which is expected to be built on a large site formerly occupied by the Bubbles swimming pool and Dome theatre will combine indoor and outdoor experiences, themed around the natural environment of Morecambe Bay and referring to the town’s heritage as a seaside resort with re-imagined lidos, gardens, performance spaces, immersive experiences and observatories.

The development would include a 4,000-capacity outdoor arena for live music and entertainment. Buildings will have a maximum height of 37.3 metres, to be no taller than the nearby grade two star-listed Midland Hotel.

Eden Project International plans to make the Morecambe development carbon neutral with a focus on visitors using public transport and park-and-ride schemes and avoiding the use of fossil-fuelled vehicles where possible. Morecambe Promenade would also be pedestrianised.

Public and stakeholder consultations are planned for this summer and autumn, with the aim of submitting the environmental statement and planning application by spring 2020. The project is due to open in spring 2023, following a two-year construction period.

David Harland, chief executive of Eden Project International, said: “This is an important milestone for Eden Project North. Having a positive impact on the internationally significant environment of Morecambe Bay is fundamental to our vision for this project.”

“We have been overwhelmed by the support we have had from the local community and we look forward to working closely with everyone in the coming months and years as Eden Project North takes shape.”

The original Eden Project near St Austell in Cornwall included an indoor rainforest and recreated landscapes from the Mediterranean, Australia and South Africa. In Morecambe, the plan is to reflect the local marine environment with a design produced by Grimshaw, the original Eden Project architects. There will be five biomes looking like giant mussel shells.

Eden Project North will be designed to accommodate up to a million people per year and it is hoped the development will revive Morecambe’s fortunes as a tourist resort by drawing at least 750,000 visitors annually and adding some £1.5 billion to the local economy over 20 years.

The feasibility study and early planning has been paid for with £250,000 from each of Eden Project North’s partners – Lancaster City and Lancashire County Councils, Lancaster University and Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership. A further £100,000 has been contributed by the government.