A so-called “Eden of the North” visitor attraction in Morecambe has moved a step closer after Lancashire County Council agreed to invest £250,000 to help develop the proposal.
Cabinet members approved the funding request from the education charity The Eden Project, which runs a venue of the same name in Cornwall.
READ MORE >>> What would an Eden of the North look like?
Three other local stakeholders have also been asked to commit the same amount as County Hall - Lancaster City Council and Lancaster University, which have already done so, and the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership, which is due to consider the possibility. The Eden Project would then match that total £1m contribution for the development of a business case.
Work could then begin on planning and financing the project - reported to be in the region of £100m - which last year was revealed to be provisionally based around a design of five giant mussels. The exhibitions would focus on water life, just as the Cornwall attraction specialises in rainforests.
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for economic development said the benefits of the proposed scheme would transform the north of the county and “spill out across Lancashire and the whole of the North West”.
“It would be transformational - the natural beauty of the area and the unique environmental features on Morecambe Bay [are something] we as Lancastrians can all pay testimony to.
“This would be a chance to create a seaside resort for the twenty-first century and would be a catalyst to regenerate the whole area,” County Cllr Green added.
Labour opposition leader, Azhar Ali, welcomed the decision and told the meeting that work on the project had spanned previous administrations at the authority.
“This will be a fantastic opportunity for job creation, regeneration and an increase in tourism. I’d like to place on record thanks to former leader, Jenny Mein, and former chief executive, Jo Turton, who started work on this project,” he said.
A report to cabinet members said the attraction would be capable of drawing a million visitors per year, a similar level of footfall to the Cornwall venue.
“It would be an attraction that complements and adds value to the visitor offer provided by Blackpool and the Lake District,” the report notes.
It is also proposed that an Eden of the North could form part of a suite of other developments in the area, including new city centre projects in Lancaster and a garden village.
Now that it has committed funding for the business case, the county council is expected to receive a presentation on how the proposal is evolving.
The government also committed £100,000 of business case funding at the last budget.