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Public cash props up Cornwall's Eden Project

By WMNAGreenwood  |  Posted: December 28, 2013

The Eden Project in Cornwall

The Eden Project in Cornwall

Comments (23)

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash has been used to prop up an ailing tourist attraction, according to council figures.

Cornwall Council has spent around £1.3 million on the Eden Project over three-and-a-half-years, but some of the payments have been left off the local authority’s “transparency report” which identifies public spending.

The attraction is one of the UK’s most popular but dozens of its staff have been made redundant, with falling attendances and financial losses in recent years.

The council said it paid out £345,000 in direct funding, as well as contributing £815,108 via “third parties” and a further £194,833 for “everyday business”.

“Following investigation it would seem that three payments (totalling £205,000) were incorrectly posted in the accounts which led to them not being picked up in the report that populates the transparency report,” the council said in a statement.

“During this period the council was moving to a new financial management system, which may have caused this error for which we apologise. However, although the three payments were not included in the transparency report, they would have been open to public inspection during the statutory 20-day period after the close of each year’s accounts.”

The figures were obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.

According to an Eden Project spokesman, the attraction has generated more than £1 billion for the wider Cornish economy and has been credited with creating 2,000 jobs elsewhere.

“It is correct that, since 2009, Eden has received £345,000 of grants directly from Cornwall Council to support the creation of new projects. We are grateful for this investment at a crucial time in our development but would like to make it clear that it would be fundamentally wrong to suggest that Eden is dependent on local authority funding.

“Since the project became active it has consistently generated more than 85% of its annual turnover from trading.

“The remaining funds come from a mixture of sources including charitable trusts, individual donations, government and lottery grants. This is a funding mix that is found in many charitable trusts in the UK.”

Cornwall Council has made six grant payments to the Eden Project, or its trust, since it became a unitary council in April 2009. These include £175,000 to the HOW2 project in March last year, described as “an ambitious skills development, training and demonstration centre designed to support the growth of business and jobs to meet the emerging needs of the 21st century”.

Of the nearly £200,000 spent on “everyday business”, the council insisted that “a number of these payments are likely to be transactions for which the council was reimbursed or received a contribution for”.

But it said it could not elaborate further without exceeding FoI restrictions.

The Eden Project was opened with much fanfare in March 2001, as one of the landmark projects to commemorate the new millennium.

Built in a former clay quarry in the Cornish countryside, the educational venue welcomed its one millionth visitor within a few months.

More recently, visitors have included the Prince of Wales, while the Olympic Torch also stopped at the attraction as part of its tour of the UK last year.

The venue, famed for its hexagonal-panelled “biomes”, has also attracted a succession of high-profile environmental guest speakers, as well as hosting concerts by the likes of Oasis, Mumford & Sons, Jessie J and Basement Jaxx.

Eden has around 400 staff, with around 60 workers losing their job this year.

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  • josdave  |  December 31 2013, 9:47AM

    Regardless of whether it is a charity it is an extortionate price for a family to pay to visit what is just a greenhouse and I for one am not surprised the numbers are falling. You want to get more visitors lower the prices or the numbers will keep falling and to my mind there are many more deserving charities than that.

    Rate 0
  • Newquaygreen  |  December 30 2013, 9:35AM

    This is a classic case of no forward planning. How did the owners think it would pay for itself long term. It is as has already been mentioned it is a 'once visit' attraction. Unless new visitors come to Cornwall or it introduces new areas which are significantly different to attarct people back then it will have to rely on corporate events. It is wrong that is gets unfair advantage over other charities in Cornwall although it has been a substantial employer. There will come a time when it will have to bite the bullet, sad but true

    Rate   3
  • wringer  |  December 29 2013, 7:07PM

    simonrtucker I am neither stingy or mean minded. The eden project calls itself a charity but it is not. it is a tourist attraction. it is no more a charity than Disneyworld. everyone in cornwall knows this. they call themselves a charity to get the tax breaks and access to funding that private businesses do not have. is it fair that so many millions should be poured into one tourist attraction? what about all the others? how much more investment could there have been across the county as a whole if all the money - and I mean all of it from all public funding sources - had been spread out. You wait. the next round of euro funding starts soon and I bet I can guess who will be first at the trough. go there to Eden. look around and see how much money is wasted on gadgets that look good but don't work. no other business would do this. It either can make enough money as a business to stand on its own feet or it cant and if it cant then like countless businesses before it, it will have to toughen up, sack the managers and do things to make itself profitable. this is what every other business in cornwall has to do. So the Eden project does more social good than a bus service to an outlying rural community or toilets in a tourist town. do me a favour, you must be employed by them to write such nonsense.

    Rate   7
  • BartDeco  |  December 29 2013, 1:33PM

    Eden is well known within the local charity world for hoovering up grants which could have gone into more worthwhile projects.

    Rate   9
  • josdave  |  December 29 2013, 12:20PM

    I would certainly not spend the ridiculously high admission price just to walk around a greenhouse albeit a large greenhouse. It is certainly not deserving of public subsidy and like a previous comment I too know a few who would not return having been bitten once. It is overhyped and overpriced and that is why numbers are falling as the novelty has worn off.

    Rate   7
  • fazer58  |  December 29 2013, 12:06PM

    "............ it would seem that three payments (totalling £205,000) were incorrectly posted in the accounts which led to them not being picked up" Nothing remotely dodgy about that is there? The whole thing reads like the kind of stuff in the news when our politicians were rumbled over their expense claims.

    Rate   8
  • simonrtucker  |  December 29 2013, 11:55AM

    The Eden Project is a fabulous attraction and anybody holidaying in Cornwall would be a fool not to visit. It is not over-priced for what it has to offer. I have visited it three times: twice to see the project and once to see Plan B (Got absolutely soaked but it was worthy it). I would be interested to see whether the downturn in visitor numbers correlates directly to the downturn in visitors to Cornwall. If numbers last year didn't drop by 15% across the board, given the awful weather, I would not be surprised. The thing about a story like this is that it always brings out the stingy, mean-minded people who hate paying for anything with any social good attached unless it benefits them directly. Whilst successive governments are prepared to waste £ billions on unnecessary wars, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and missiles I will have no truck with any "austerity programme" or complaint against funding of worthwhile projects like the Eden Project.

    Rate   -2
  • Jonny2010  |  December 29 2013, 11:40AM

    Big Ger, I want to see Cornwall Council swept away. As a nationalist I would want a brand new authority, with all the recruitment done independently/externally. Cornwall Council is decrepit.

    Rate   -5
  • Lafrowda  |  December 28 2013, 10:58PM

    Anyone who has been conned into going there goes away with an idea that Cornwall is a holiday destination to avoid. Overhyped, & Overpriced.

    Rate   7
  • Big_Ger  |  December 28 2013, 10:21PM

    This is the Cornwall county council which Cornish nationalists want to give MORE power to to tax and spend our money. They must think we're mad!!!

    Rate   8