Eden Project to make job cuts after falling visitor numbers

Up to 70 job losses expected at Cornwall attraction after visits dropped below million mark in 2012 for first year since opening

The Eden Project in Cornwall, one of the UK's most popular attractions, is cutting up to 70 jobs after visitor numbers fell last year.

For the first time since Eden opened in 2001, visitor numbers dropped below the million mark in a calendar year.

Eden said it was having to make job reductions as part of an effort to reduce annual costs by £2m. It currently has 445 full-time equivalent posts, among them horticulturists, education experts, events organisers, shop workers and support staff.

A statement from Eden, a charity and social enterprise, said the job losses were planned across all areas of its operation. A statutory consultation process is due to begin on Wednesday.

The statement said: "Far fewer visitors came to Cornwall in 2012 due to a combination of the Olympics, poor summer and autumn weather and the lasting effects of the recession. This, coupled with enormous pressure on income in the charity sector and the well-documented challenges of fundraising in the current economic climate, have made it necessary to make substantial cuts to the cost base."

Eden opened its spectacular biomes – giant greenhouses built in an old china clay pit near St Austell – to the public in March 2001. By June that year more than a million people had visited. In July 2008 it welcomed its 10 millionth visitor. By the time it had celebrated its 10th birthday, 13 million people had passed through its doors.

The venue has diversified, for example by organising hugely popular concerts – Pulp was the first band to play, in 2002.

In November 2012, following a public vote, the Eden Project won the best UK leisure attraction category at the British Travel awards for the second year running.

But some visitors have complained that the attraction is expensive (a basic adult ticket on the door is £23.50 and children aged five to 16 are charged £9.50, though the costs are reduced dramatically if the visitor arrives on foot, bicycle or by public transport).

The job losses are a blow not just to Eden and the people affected but the local economy. Eden is a hugely important employer and economic driver in Cornwall.

In a letter to all staff, Sir Tim Smit, Eden's chief executive for development, said of the job losses: "No sugar-coated pill will ease the anguish for those affected, all we can say to those of you who will be leaving is thank you so much for all you have given Eden and we hope you will depart feeling a great deal of pride in all you have achieved in creating a very special place, for now and for the future."

Contributor

Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

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