Income at the botanic garden near St Austell in Cornwall during the 2016/17 financial year rose from £20.72m to £22.55m, mainly down to strong visitor numbers. The 2016 calendar year saw a 4% rise in visitors compared to 2015, and the project’s best ever December. International consultancy and an additional Eden Session for BBC Music Day also brought in extra income.
Eden Project Limited, the trading company owned by charity the Eden Trust recorded an operating profit, before interest, depreciation and deferred grant releases, of £1.65m, down from £1.82m in 2015/16. Eden said this was down to a significant investment in staff and maintenance during the year, as well as increased costs of the National Living Wage, and a decision to apply the wage to staff from age 21 rather than the mandatory 25.
New staff included high-level hires Dr Mike Maunder who joined as director of life sciences and Peter Wroe as finance director.
Its education business has also grown. There are now 100 students studying for a degree at Eden, in partnership with Cornwall College and Plymouth University.
Overall the botanic garden is still making a loss, as it continues to pay debts including a £39.5m interest free set-up loan but has cut those losses, from £655,000 in 2015/16 to £589,000 in 2016/17, after interest, depreciation and deferred grant releases were taken out.
Other positive developments during the financial year include:
- The first apprentices graduated from Eden’s rolling two-year programmes, and some have joined as permanent staff.
- Nearly 50,000 children visited the Cornwall site with their schools and an outdoor club for the under-fives, Little Eden, was launched.
- In the Rainforest Biome, the Rainforest Canopy Walkway was extended, featuring the new Weather Maker exhibit.
- Eden also received planning permission for the updated design of a 109-bedroom hotel on site.
- In 2016 the eighth annual Big Lunch, the Eden-led project, was attended by 7.3 million people, including Royal Patron HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and HRH The Prince of Wales.
- A set of on-site social prescribing initiatives were launched, including those tacking social isolation, COPD and other health issues.
Finance director Peter Wroe said: "It has been another encouraging year, with good results in terms of our trading surplus, turnover and visitor numbers, all of which have helped us make significant investments in the team and our site."
He said that the project would continue to invest in the Edensite in Cornwall. This would include construction work on a £3 million permanent exhibit called Invisible Worlds which will explore the world beyond the senses.
Eden Project Limited remains committed to becoming debt free.