Eden bids for £7m help from the Government to build skills centre
THE Eden Project is applying for two government loans to help fund a planned skills centre – despite making job cuts to help save £2 million.
The attraction is seeking to borrow millions of pounds towards the HOW2 project.
Business leaders are backing the bids by Eden for up to £7 million from two government funds.
The first application, to the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), is expected to be for about £3 million towards the £18 million HOW2 educational centre, a partnership with Cornwall College.
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Eden is also set to apply to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for a loan from the Exceptional Regional Growth Fund which, the department's website states, is for helping with "economic shocks and opportunities".
The applications for funding come after Eden staff were warned of redundancies to help make savings of about £2 million across "all areas of its operation".
Tim Jones, chairman of Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said the money would be "repaid ten times over" in benefits for the local economy.
He said: "They have got to be run on business efficient lines to justify their existence but we have got to recognise that they bring much more than a standalone business to the regional economy.
"The phrase 'too big to fail' tends to get put alongside big banks – I prefer to describe Eden as a regional treasure and we have got to take the long-term view."
The Eden Trust's net debt in March 2012 stood at £5.3 million, compared to £7.7 million the previous year. In 2011 it was revealed that Eden had welcomed 12.8 million visitors and generated £1.1 billion for the economy.
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership is believed to have supported the funding applications.
In a statement, Eden confirmed the RGF application for HOW2, "a unique skills-sharing centre for Cornwall" which received planning permission in December.
"The size and detail of the bid to the RGF is now being finalised in advance of the submission deadline of March 20.
"In due course Eden also hopes to be considered for help from the Extraordinary Regional Growth Fund. The Eden Project is very grateful for the support expressed by the wider business community so far."