RENOWNED natural history broadcaster Sir David Attenborough will speak at the latest fundraising dinner for an ambitious £85million Jurassic Coast visitor attraction project on Portland.
The ‘Jurassica’ vision, which also has the backing of Eden Project supremo Sir Tim Smit, is to build a subterranean geological park in the former Yeolands quarry on the east side of the island.
The vision is inspired by the Eden Project and is the brainchild of science journalist Michael Hanlon, who grew up in Dorset and searched for fossils on the coast.
Mr Hanlon previously told the Echo: “Jurassica will only happen if enough people, businesses and organisations give it their support.”
Plans for Jurassica have been steadily progressing and in February the project was granted charitable status by the Charity Commission, meaning approaches to possible sponsors could begin.
West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin and South Dorset MP Richard Drax, as well as Portland historian Stuart Morris, have shown support for the project.
Now, Sir David Attenborough will be the star guest at a major fundraising dinner in London on September 23. It aims to be held at the Natural History Museum.
Tony Williams of Wessex Entrepreneurs, promotional partner for Jurassica, said: “Jurassica would not have got this far were it not for the enthusiasm of so many different people, businesses and organisations.
“There is a long way to go and that interest and energy will need to be turned into the positive result that will see Portland regenerated and become a world class visitor attraction with Jurassica at its heart.
“Currently, a database of sponsors is being formed and once funding for a business structure is in place then a full programme of moneyraising, meetings and events will take place both locally and in London.
“With the help of the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (DLEP) an application for Government funding has been made that will hopefully see the informal business structure that currently supports Jurassica evolve into a proper organisation.”
Projections produced by Dorset County Council suggest that Jurassica will increase business in Dorset by £7m annually and create 150 new jobs.
The data, while an approximate estimate, has been produced with the help of the Eden Project using the experience of how its growth had such a positive impact on the Cornish economy.
Showcasing world-class paleontological remains including dinosaurs, marine reptiles and plants, the park would be covered with a translucent ‘spider web’ roof.
The site, which would include an aquarium, is being described as about a third of the size of the Millennium Dome.
Construction time for the project is estimated to be three to five years and if funding can be secured, the project aims to be open by 2019.
For further details email tony.
firstname.lastname@example.org. A website has now also been set up at jurassica.org