Eden Project architect to create rainforest in a giant glasshouse, dubbed ‘Kew in the North’, in St Helens

Architect Grimshaw is to use Eden Project technology to design an environmental attraction in Merseyside, dubbed “Kew in the North”.

The architect has worked up a concept for a grand environmentally sustainable glasshouse that will include rare plants and animals and will use decomposing waste matter to generate its heat energy.

Local regeneration bodies are hoping that the project will bring the same economic and tourist benefits that the Eden Project delivered to Cornwall when it opened in 2001, and become as much of an icon for the North-west as the Angel of the North.

It will also go some way to compensating Merseyside for losing its bid to host another big Grimshaw project incorporating Eden Project technology for the National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habits (NIRAH). That project, which has two 34 m high biomes and will cost £225m, was awarded to a site near Bedford last week.

The Kew in the North project, which is in its early stages, will recreate a slice of rainforest in a giant glasshouse on a 400-acre site in St Helens, near Liverpool.

The plan is to recreate the ecosystems of the tropical regions of the world and their native animal species.

The project is being designed by Michael Pawlyn, a Grimshaw associate who spent seven years working on the Eden project. The design takes its cue from another Cornish scheme, garden restoration project the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which has pineapple sheds heated by a mixture of decomposing tree bark and manure.

Visitors will enter at the top of the glasshouse and use aerial walkways to cross the enclosure at different heights. Pathways will wind their way down through the canopy to the forest floor.

Project cost is not known at this stage, but the architect is in talks with the local authority, waste management companies and a regeneration partnership, Ravenhead Renaissance.

Pawlyn said in a presentation to the North West Business Leadership Forum last month that the scheme incorporated the best elements of the Eden Project and would be environmentally sustainable and more advanced. “The way this project will deal with waste will result in zero running costs”, he said.

Despite its moniker, the project is not affiliated with Kew Gardens in south-west London and project sources have stressed that “Kew in the North” is just a working name at present. A timescale has yet to be set but it is understood that the first phase would take at least five years to complete.