Dundee’s Eden Project is now on track for construction to begin in 18 months’ time despite a short Covid delay, the charity’s chief executive says.
David Harland, who leads Eden International, predicts that with the planning process under way the project should be “shovel ready” with 18 months.
Originally slated to be open in 2024, the attraction is now expected to welcome tourists in 2026.
It will see the former gasworks on East Dock Street completely overhauled, using existing tall brick walls to create walled gardens on site.
In an interview with The Courier discussing the project’s progress, David says he is excited to see the next steps confirmed.
He said: “We’ve announced some funding that takes us all the way through pre-construction, so hopefully by then, we’ll have planning permission and construction.
“It means that in 18 months’ time the project should be shovel ready, and that’s quite quick for something like this.”
David says the project will undertake further community engagement in the coming months, asking residents how Eden can most benefit the community.
“We’ve got this concept of using guilds to have pop-ups out in the city, and over the next few months, we’ll be engaging even more on the 600 interviews we’ve already done.
“We’ll be asking people what they want in their area and how we make sure the wealth is shared across the city.
“That can take many forms, it could be about supporting community projects or rewilding areas,” he said.
As well as posing challenges, David says the pandemic has also given the charity time to reflect and introduce changes that had likely been needed for some time.
He said: “We’ve managed to get up to Dundee a couple of times despite the Covid restrictions, and it has made for a very slight delay.
“We just have to keep our foot to the floor, identifying the next steps and route to funding.
“In Cornwall, the pandemic brought into focus areas of our business that we should have dealt with sooner.
“We had to make some changes around social distancing, and I wish we’d made them sooner because the visitor experience is better.
“Secondly it demonstrated how part of the natural world we really are, that’s where the virus came from.
“During the pandemic, people were often more in touch with the natural world, and local communities have become so much more important.
“It’s a good time for the project, we need to make sure we keep reminding people that visiting in our own country is a good thing.”
David also praised the way the project’s partners had rallied together, something he said made a huge difference to the speed of progress.
“It’s important when you’re talking to different governments that everyone pulls in the same direction, and not competing through self-interest. It’s hugely significant.
“It’s a huge credit to Dundonians and the leadership of the city.
“We’re delighted to be part of it and I hope we can repay the faith in trust.”