Eden Project puts the brakes on eco-college
Construction of a new educational building led by the Eden Project is to be put on hold following news that the attraction is to shed jobs to help save £2 million a year.
Dubbed HOW2, the education facility and its parking would total up to 4.3 hectares – the equivalent of five football pitches – with a 'floating' wave-like appearance and be made from recycled materials.
The collaboration with Cornwall College was designed to teach green and sustainable skills to those who might not go to college or university. However, despite gaining planning permission last year, it will now be delivered in phases after Eden Project bosses announced a fortnight ago that up to 70 staff – out of 445 full-time equivalent posts – could be made redundant. It said a combination of the Olympics, the bad weather in the summer and autumn and the continuing recession had led to drop in the county's visitors.
A 30-day consultation with staff is under way.
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Gaynor Coley, chief executive for enterprise, said they were trying to work through it quickly because there was "a high level of distress and the longer the uncertainty the worse it is". But she said a plan was also being formulated to make sure the attraction could "get ahead of the curve".
Ms Coley said although the Cornish economy was "very vibrant with great new companies", the fall in visitor numbers had ramped up the struggle. "What we're trying to do is make sure that that doesn't have an impact; that Eden is here not only in five years but in ten and 100 years' time," she said, adding: "That's part of the reason why we're cutting as deep as we are right now, to make sure the business is really robust."
This is the second time in 12 months Eden has had to make redundancies, with 20 jobs lost previously. The problems will not prevent work, funded by two large science foundations, starting this spring inside the Rainforest Biome on the first ever canopy walkway in Europe and a base camp.
However, plans to build a pioneering college have been put on hold until its current situation and the lack of external funding are resolved.
On the future of HOW2, Ms Coley said: "We're pushing ahead with phase one and hopefully then as we turn the corner we will come back to reinstate phase two."
Phase one will see the green skills, training, exhibition and development be delivered on Eden's existing main site. Phase two will be the construction of the new HOW 2 building.