Derry can lead a world “agricultural revolution” and help save the planet, while adding hundreds of millions of pounds to the local economy.
That’s according to Sir Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project in Cornwall who, with his proposed £60m Foyle River Gardens, wants Derry to join a ‘global family of Edens.’
Sir Tim was at Queen’s University last night where he delivered its Institute for Global Food Security’s annual lecture and outlined his ambitions for the huge eco-development that will stretch from the Foyle Bridge to Culmore Point.
The project, which is being pursued by QUB, Ulster University and the Northside Development Trust, proposes the re-development of both Boom Hall and Brook Hall, state-of-the-art new educational and research facilities, a lido on the Foyle, river taxis, greenhouse labs, water sports, restaurants and an amphitheatre among other attractions.
Speaking in advance of his keynote address last night, Sir Tim said he was incredibly excited about the Derry project, which it’s projected could create hundreds of jobs, attract 400,000 visitors a year to the city and add £20m a year to the local economy.
He said: “You go to Derry and you see probably one of the top five most beautiful rivers in Europe going through this amazing city which has got a heart going back centuries and centuries and centuries and you are thinking: how come nobody has actually made this place sing?
“I think part of this is, you sometimes need an outsider to give you a slap around the face with a wet haddock and say, you know, ‘smell the roses here.’ When you look at that landscape it really is stunning. It’s very hard to stay away from clichés but it really is a jewel.”
Back in the 1980s Sir Tim, abandoned a career in the music business to move to Cornwall where he helped develop the botanical ‘Lost Gardens of Heligan’ attraction before raising the miraculous Eden Project from the desolation of exhausted clay pits nearby. The Eden Project’s two huge biodomes now attract 1.1million people a year and are estimated to have brought in £1.7 billion to the local economy since opening in 2001. 400 people now work there.
Sir Tim thinks Derry is on the cusp of emulating this Cornish success story with growing popular support for innovations that improve agricultural sustainability and push a greener agenda.
He said: “A lot of extinctions are to do with the impact of agriculture on the land and it is now time for us to bring forward the clevernesses that enable us to look at soil health, biodiversity protection and, of course, carbon sequestration in the soil. For me the Derry project is right at the forefront of this.” (More on Page 3)