A REVOLUTIONARY 'Eden Project' on Portland which will bring £24m to the local economy and create more than 130 jobs is set to become reality with formal plans set to be submitted by the end of the year, the Dorset Echo can exclusively reveal.

The development brings together the visions of two world-class attraction projects that had been planned for Portland for some time – MEMO and Jurassica which will bring 325,000 visitors to the isle every year.

Once opened, the attraction will form part of a wider vision for a global network of sites by Eden Project International, an off-shoot of the Eden Project, who are developing new Edens in the UK and around the world including China, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

In partnership with the Eden Project, the visitor destination will transform and regenerate exhausted quarry and mine workings within the tunnels of Albion Stone's Jordans Mine and accessed from Bower's Quarry on Portland to create an extraordinary subterranean visitor experience dedicated to biodiversity.

While the name is still to be decided, the new attraction is being developed with both local and regional partners including Dorset LEP, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, philanthropist Sue Lyons, and The Valentine Trust.

Under the new proposals, there will be nearly a linear kilometre of underground ‘gallery’ space with a labyrinth of tunnels allowing visitors to explore the dramatic history of life on earth.

Using circus, drama, artworks, games, virtual reality and the ancient art of stone carving, visitors will explore the improbability that there is life at all, its evolution, the ancient stories written in the rocks of the Jurassic Coast, the current crisis of modern biodiversity loss, and the variety of possible futures ahead of us.

A design team has now been appointed, including international award winning virtual reality and visual effects artists while the Dorset Echo also learnt that plans are also currently in process with traffic management consultants to develop a park and ride facility at Osprey Quay to cater for new tourists to visit the attraction.

Sebastian Brooke, Project Director, MEMO, said: "We will tell the biggest story of all: the evolving story of life. It’s a story four billion years in the making and so far as anyone knows has happened nowhere else in the universe.

"According to the world’s biologists, a really significant chapter is unfolding right now with the loss of biodiversity worldwide, and with its mines, its cliffs and its mysteries, Portland is an amazingly vivid setting for the telling of it."

Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project, and executive chairman of Eden Project International, added: "Eden’s mission is to explore our dependence on the natural world, to use that understanding to excite people into delivering transformation where they live and to ask really serious questions about what a great future might look like for all of us."

Cllr Jeff Cant, leader of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, said: "This new attraction has the potential to transform the fortunes of the island and draw large numbers of additional visitors to the Borough.

"It fits perfectly with our strategy to turn this beautiful part of the coast into an all year round destination."

He added that the attraction would also strengthen the case for a Western Relief Road together with solutions to access to and around the island by road due to the increase in traffic flows to and from the island.

Jim Stewart, chairman of the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: "The project will provide much-needed employment and apprenticeship opportunities in around the area and having the association of the hugely successful Eden project brand will make it more attractive to tourists helping to increase visitor spend.”

Cllr Charlie Flack, Mayor of Portland, welcomed the news adding that Portland has needed a wet weather attraction for a long time.

Tophill East councillor Katharine Garcia added: "Having met up with members of the Eden International team earlier this year, I am extremely excited that a planning application will be submitted shortly – showing their commitment to making what has been a long-awaited dream a step closer to being a reality."

As previously reported, Jurassica, an attraction which would have celebrated the geological heritage of the Jurassic Coast, merged with biodiversity project Memo to create a single visitor experience last October after the death of Jurassica founder Micheal Hanlon.

Public consultations will now take place with stakeholders and community representatives during the weekends of on September 29/30 and October 6/7 which will allow welcome residents to meet the project team and provide opportunities to get involved with the project with displays, talks and activities.

A planning application is expected to be submitted to Weymouth and Portland Borough Council before the end of the year with the attraction set to open in Spring 2021.