Morecambe MP says Eden Project North is one step closer due to government's 'Levelling Up' fund
Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris said Eden Project North is the single best project to level up the whole of the North West, but the leader of Lancaster City Council described the process as "often no more than a glorified beauty contest".
There were hopes that Chancellor Rishi Sunak would announce the £70m funding for Morecambe's Eden Project North in this week's Spring Budget.
There was no mention of it, but Eden Project International CEO David Harland said the project remained on track, and he did not view the absence of any funding announcement as a major setback.
Mr Morris said he had been awaiting the announcement of the Levelling Up fund criteria to help Eden Project North, following discussions with Communities and Local Government Minister Luke Hall and Treasury Ministers.
The Conservative MP said: "Eden Project North is a step closer today as the applications for the levelling up fund are now open.
"Since the Eden Project submitted their business case I have been engaged in meetings with Minister Luke Hall and various Treasury Ministers to secure funding for the project and was signposted to the levelling up fund.
"In my adjournment debate of the 10th February Minister Luke Hall confirmed that Eden Project North would be exactly the kind of Project that would fit the Levelling Up fund agenda.
"Eden Project North is unique, it is shovel ready and already has strong local support with the backing of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Lancaster University, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council.
"Eden Project North is the single best project to level up not just the Lancaster District but the whole of the North West.
"Now the full criteria has been released I will be having further meetings with Treasury Ministers, Department for Communities Housing and Local Government Ministers with Eden to progress the application for the fund and will be able to update people more once our application for this funding has been submitted."
But Councillor Dr Erica Lewis, Labour leader of Lancaster City Council, had a different take on the situation, and said she was incredibly disappointed and frustrated that the Chancellor did not announce funding for Eden North as part of his Budget.
She said: “Eden’s business case for the project is sound and the benefits it would bring are unquestioned.
"It is exactly the sort of ambitious and transformative project which fits in with the Government’s claims of wanting to level up the regions.
“We remain hopeful that the Government will demonstrate its commitment by other means, possibly through the £4.8bn levelling up local investment fund which has opened today.
"However, it would have been far better if funding had come through directly from the Treasury, rather than forcing us down the route of a competitive bidding process which is often no more than a glorified beauty contest.
“Along with all our partners we will continue to press the case for Government investment in Eden North to realise the economic, social and environmental benefits it would bring.”