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Dundee Eden Project: Preferred site confirmed as Nicola Sturgeon hails ‘stunning’ plans

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described the proposals for Eden Project Dundee as “stunning”, after the charity revealed its preferred site in the city.

It can be revealed today the plans involve converting the former Dundee Gasworks on East Dock Street into the Eden Project’s home in Scotland.

The education and environment charity has a “global garden” in tropical biomes across a space the size of 30 football pitches at its site in Cornwall – and revealed plans to create Edens across the globe, including the City of Discovery.

City council leader John Alexander has said the new artist’s impressions are “incredible” and says it proves Eden Project will be “another jewel in the crown for the city”.

Jobs boost for city

There are estimates the site could create up to 500 jobs in Dundee and boost the local economy by around £27 million a year.

A spokesman for Eden said today: “The site is set back from the Dundee Waterfront on the bank of the River Tay.

The preferred site for the new Eden Project Dundee.

“It has good public transport links, the potential for a new pedestrian connection to the city centre and is less than a mile away from V&A Dundee and the train station.

“The existing tall brick walls on the site suggested to the Eden team the potential to create walled gardens, making for a striking contrast to the industrial heritage of the gasworks.

“Eden envisages this as a powerful symbol of regeneration, echoing the project’s home in Cornwall, which is located in a former clay quarry.

It is hoped the proposed site will act “as a symbol of regeneration”.

“Building Eden Project Dundee in this location would also provide an eastern anchor for the Dundee Waterfront regeneration project.”

The project is characterised not by specialisms, like the existing nine trades, but by providing alternative ways of perceiving the world.

Each Guild will have its Guild Hall on the main Eden Project Dundee site with opportunities for “embassies” elsewhere in the city.

David Harland, Eden Project International chief executive, said: “This is a really exciting moment for the Eden Project and the City of Dundee.

“The former Dundee Gasworks site is by far the best location for our Scottish home and we’re delighted to have a formal agreement in place to start working on a detailed plan.

“The feasibility study was like nothing we’ve ever worked on before, coming as it did during lockdown.

“Against all the odds, the hard work and dedication of our partners in Dundee shone through – even when we could only talk to them through a computer screen, their passion for the project, their city and country was palpable.

“Alongside the generous engagement of local businesses and community groups, this has come together, such that we now have a project with genuine air under its wings.

“We’ve got the one site at the moment, the preferred option, at the gasworks.

Nine guilds

“What we’ve got here is a sort of narrative as well, and having talked to our Dundonian partners, there is the history of the nine incorporated trades. 

“We have incorporated nine ‘new’ trades, which are generalisms, if you like, rather than specialisms.

“Because of that, what that allows us to imagine is that we could have little ’embassies’ around Dundee, which would encourage people out into different places.

“So, what I think we will see is the main hub, at the gasworks, with the Lush Bunker.”

The proposed site, with oil rigs on the Tay in the background.

The Lush Bunker will be a high-tech zone showcasing new ways to grow plants and featuring hyper-real journeys into the air, soil and water, and the Seam, a collection of emotional, story-driven experiences related to mining and its alternatives.

Mr Harland continued: “We would then see, particularly in the development phase, this is an opportunity for people to be a part of this across the city.

“And that’s how you get really good economic and social change – by spreading the wealth across the city.”

While Mr Harland said other sites had been looked at for possible locations for the other guilds could be, none had been secured at this stage.

The former gasworks.

He is also confident the development will sustain hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in the city, plus construction work on top of that as the site is built.

‘A city looking forwards’

He added: “We buy 80% of our goods and services locally, wherever our Eden site is. So the 300 are very much supply-chain jobs.

“The 200 direct jobs will be working at the Eden sites, and then there will be construction jobs on top of that as well, once we begin building the project.

“So there will be a huge number of construction jobs in the short-term, as well.

“How you make a big impact with these projects, economically and socially, if you have a local and regional supply chain, you really do get impact quite quickly.

“That’s what we saw in Cornwall, so we’re trying to replicate that in the beautiful city of Dundee.”

David said that the interest in Dundee came when Dundee University and the city council introduced Eden to the city.

“We realised Dundee was a city looking forwards, rather than backwards,” he added.

David Harland.

Discussing the biggest modern attraction in Dundee at present, the V&A Museum of Design, Mr Harland said it would be “great” to have the museum as a “neighbour”.

And he hopes it can help with footfall at Eden when it opens.

“I think what’s great about the V&A is that they’ve done a fabulous job there, and the city has that experience of working with something that significant and well-known as the V&A,” said Mr Harland

“So the V&A as a sort-of ‘neighbour’, if you like, is great. You also have the James Hutton Institute next door, great universities, and plenty more besides.

“It’s that collaboration that we feed off and we hope to make sure we are part of.

“With regards to footfall, we’re targeting 750,000 people a year to come in.

“We suspect the site can cope with a bit more than that, if need be, but we think that’s achievable at the moment.”

The V&A could help drive footfall at Eden Project Dundee.

John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council, said: “Completing the feasibility study and identifying the preferred site are another two important milestones on our journey to bringing Eden to Dundee.

“It truly is an incredible project, which will wow city residents and visitors alike.

“What Eden has envisaged is the transformation of an industrial site into a world-class attraction with a focus on the environment and sustainability.

“Eden Project Dundee is another opportunity to put Dundee on the map and show how well our city works with internationally-renowned partners.

“This project will deliver on so much of what we all want for the city – from creating hundreds of jobs and bringing millions of pounds annually into the local economy, to delivering opportunities for education and connecting our diverse communities.

“It will be another jewel in the crown of our stunning, transformed Waterfront area. And the concept of the entire city being part of the project is unique and incredibly exciting.”

John Alexander at the site on Thursday.

Eden, National Grid and SGN will kick off a period in which the partners will explore the practicalities of using the site.

The Eden Project has signed a memorandum of understanding with the owners of its preferred site and released the first image of how it might look.

The feasibility study was completed with the support of Eden’s partners; Dundee City Council, Dundee University, and The Northwood Charitable Trust.

Nicola Sturgeon says ‘plans look stunning’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The dramatic transformation of Dundee’s waterfront continues apace with this fantastic news.

“The plans and illustrations for the preferred site look nothing short of stunning.

“Alongside the iconic V&A, Eden is another game-changing draw to the city and the surrounding area and will play a key role in Dundee’s strategic economic recovery from Covid.

“Tourism remains a key driver for the inclusive growth of Scotland’s economy and in these incredibly challenging times the Eden project in Scotland can provide many benefits and opportunities to secure jobs, increase investment and attract more visitors to the area.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“The regeneration of an old gasworks into a stunning garden of Eden is visionary and should be held up as an inspiration to what there is to achieve as Scotland begins the process of building back better from the pandemic.

“Everyone involved deserves great credit for their drive, energy and commitment and vision in bringing the project to this stage.

“It really will be a fantastic attraction for the city and Scotland as a whole.

“Also, the climate emergency has not gone away and the Scottish Government looks forward to a successful COP26 in Glasgow.

“My government’s support for the creation of an Eden in Scotland is a tangible showcase for our commitment to a just transition to net-zero emissions by 2045.”

China, Australia, New Zealand and Costa Rica

Eden Project Dundee is one of a sisterhood of UK projects Eden Project International is developing.

Plans are advancing for Morecambe (Eden Project North), and others proposed in Londonderry and Portland.

Eden’s global portfolio of projects includes developments in China, Australia, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

Those behind the project say, like every other site around the world, Eden Project Dundee will be transformational and regenerative with an overarching theme of humanity’s connection to the natural world.

The original Eden Project, located near St Austell in Cornwall, opened in March 2001.

It boasts the world-famous geodesic Biomes, one of which houses the world’s biggest undercover rainforest.

Eden has welcomed more than 22 million visitors since opening and has generated more than £2bn for the regional economy.

FIRST LOOK: Eden Project Dundee visitor attraction to span several sites