The need to spread tourism across the UK has been highlighted this week by a group of MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who have been taking evidence on ways to improve the UK’s offer for tourists. Whilst the South Coast was at the top of their agenda, the difficulty of persuading tourists off the beaten track was acknowledged.
There was widespread agreement too that the 2012 Olympics failed to deliver on its promise of both tourism and regeneration.
Through the Government’s Growth Deal programme, the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) secured £66.4m to allocate to local projects that would drive forward economic growth and create more highly skilled jobs in Dorset. One project, Jurassica, was identified as part of the Strategic Economic Plan as having the potential to make a significant and positive difference. The Dorset LEP awarded the project £300,000 to fund a feasibility study and Heritage Lottery Fund Application.
Jurassica is an ambitious project to create a world-class heritage attraction on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. To be located in a disused limestone quarry on the Isle of Portland, Jurassica will showcase and bring to life more than 200 million years of geological history preserved in the strata of the Dorset and East Devon coastlines.
The brainchild of Michael Hanlon, a national newspaper journalist and author who grew up in the county, Jurassica, a registered educational charity, has parallels to Cornwall’s Eden Project. Sir Tim Smit, the founder of the Eden Project is one of Jurassica’s trustees and Sir David Attenborough is the project’s patron.
Since the funding announcement in July last year, Jurassica has gained considerable momentum and support. In November, the project put in a first round application for a £16m Heritage Lottery Fund Award. But if Jurassica – which will cost over £70m to complete – is to become a reality, significant private sector backing must be secured.
“We secured government funding because Jurassica will be a catalyst for regeneration, creating jobs and growth but also has the potential to create something of global significance,” Hanlon says. “Jurassica has the ability to capture people’s imagination and is a powerful concept. Funders are individuals and businesses who love the idea, or who see the potential for Dorset, the county where they live and work.
“There is a substantial market in China for Jurassica, for example. Portland receives more than 22,000 international cruise ship visitors a year, and growing – hardly any of which stay in Dorset, let alone Portland. It’s a huge untapped market.
“Jurassica will bring jobs and put Dorset on the global map; a real focus that will drive tourism upwards and pour more than £20m into the county’s businesses every year”.
As well as government backing, Jurassica has support from Dorset County Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Councils, as well as Bournemouth University, local schools, colleges, community organisations. Jurassica promises an active volunteering programme, apprenticeships as well as the creation of more than 150 full-time skilled jobs.
In April if Jurassica is successful in its first round Heritage Lottery Fund application, the project will begin the next stage of development. Jurassica’s initial partnership fundraising target is £3.4m and the project’s first donors and strongest supporters have come forward at an early stage from the local business community. Jurassica is projected to open in 2020.