More­cambe pre­pares to flex its mus­sels as a ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal tourist attraction, as PAUL MACKEN­ZIE re­ports

Lancashire Life - - PHOTOGRAPH­Y COMPETITIO­N - (Im­age: Grimshaw Ar­chi­tects)

An artist’s im­pres­sion of the giant glass mussel shells on

More­cambe seafront

Those huge mussel shells on the previous pages could trans­form not only More­cambe’s seafront, but also Lan­cashire’s tourism in­dus­try.

They will house the Eden Pro­ject North, a sec­ond UK base for the en­vi­ron­ment-themed tourist attraction which has re­vi­talised a for­mer min­ing area of Corn­wall and now welcomes more than a mil­lion vis­i­tors a year.

The five shells, cost­ing around £80m to build, could be open by 2021 and bosses at the Eden Pro­ject’s St Austell head­quar­ters believe they would cre­ate more than 300 jobs and at­tract about 750,000 vis­i­tors a year.

David Har­land, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Eden Pro­ject In­ter­na­tional, said: ‘The de­cline of the Bri­tish sea­side re­sort is story we are all fa­mil­iar with. There has been a sense that More­cambe’s glory years are be­hind it and we like places like that. In St Austell the clay in­dus­try was in de­cline when we started in the 1990s. We want to in­stil hope and op­ti­mism. We want to change the per­cep­tion into one of awe.

‘More­cambe ex­isted as a place to es­cape the mills and the mines, a place to take the air and ex­pe­ri­ence the thrill of stand­ing on the end of the pier. But when cheap air travel came in, that sense of the ex­otic was in reach of all of us. That’s all we’ll be do­ing now – try­ing to bring back the ex­otic.

‘We couldn’t have picked a bet­ter place than More­cambe and what has been really en­cour­ag­ing has been the re­sponse. Lan­cashire as a re­gion has been get­ting be­hind this and that has been cru­cial. We have been bowled over by the sup­port we have lo­cally. We are work­ing on projects all over the world and all any­one wants to talk about is More­cambe. Ev­ery­one has heard of it, it’s an amaz­ing place.’

Once money is raised to build the vast glass build­ings – fund­ing would come from a mix of gov­ern­ment money and pri­vate back­ers – con­struc­tion could begin next year. In­side the shells will be per­for­mance spa­ces, im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences, ob­ser­va­to­ries and plea­sure gar­dens, all in­spired by the bay

and ma­rine life. Plans at the mo­ment in­clude cre­at­ing three ob­ser­va­to­ries, each ex­plor­ing a dif­fer­ent as­pect of ma­rine life and touch­ing on is­sues such as cli­mate change, pol­lu­tion, health and well­be­ing.

‘We are ap­proached a lot but we are picky types,’ said Mr Har­land, who added that

Eden Pro­ject In­ter­na­tional is in­ves­ti­gat­ing other pos­si­ble ven­tures in China, South Amer­ica and New Zealand. ‘Our re­sponse nor­mally is why would we want to? But this one spoke to us and to what we are about.’

‘We were orig­i­nally ap­proached by Lan­caster Uni­ver­sity and they ex­plained the his­tory of the area. Ob­vi­ously it’s out­stand­ingly beau­ti­ful but there’s also a real sense of momentum in this area of the coun­try.’

The Eden Pro­ject in Corn­wall has at­tracted 19 mil­lion vis­i­tors and pumped an es­ti­mated £2bn into the lo­cal economy since it opened in a dis­used clay pit in 2001. And Mr Har­land be­lieves the im­pact in Lan­cashire could be just as pos­i­tive.

‘In most places we con­vince our­selves there’s a mar­ket, here we’re con­cerned with man­ag­ing the mar­ket and mak­ing a 365-day-a-year lo­ca­tion for peo­ple to visit,’ he said.

‘We are try­ing to build an attraction that brings peo­ple in re­gion­ally, na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. We want to put More­cambe back on the map.

‘Eden in St Austell changed the face of tourism in Corn­wall but the numbers there were smaller and Lan­cashire al­ready has the road and rail con­nec­tions. It terms of lo­gis­tics, three quar­ters of a mil­lion peo­ple is a lot but it’s spread across 365 days and we know that an event such as Vin­tage By The Sea brings in more than 30,000 peo­ple on a sin­gle day.

‘Eden is about con­nect­ing peo­ple to the nat­u­ral world and cre­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ences that bring the joy and beauty of the nat­u­ral world to life. We want peo­ple to have active ex­pe­ri­ences, we don’t want this to be pas­sive or a stan­dard mu­seum – we are in the busi­ness of giv­ing peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ences they would not get else­where.

‘We ex­pect about 750,000 vis­i­tors a year. At Corn­wall we have just over a mil­lion vis­i­tors. More­cambe is a smaller site and we’re going to have to man­age en­try quite care­fully and we want lo­cal peo­ple to be able to visit. We have lo­cal passes for res­i­dents near the Corn­wall site and we’d look at a sim­i­lar scheme here.’

(Pic­ture: Hufton+crow)

ABOVE: The fa­mous biodomes of the Eden Pro­ject in Corn­wall.

BE­LOW: David Har­land, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Eden Pro­ject In­ter­na­tional

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