Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 11:26

The Eden Project has opened a green community café in nearby St Austell today - the first time the project has had a base outside its famous home featuring the Biomes.

Fitted out with solar panels, a low-energy kitchen and recycled furniture, the new café in the sustainable retail complex White River Place is serving local food and drink and providing a space for arts exhibitions, music and community events.

A special feature is a produce exchange table where visitors can bring in home-grown fruit and vegetables to sell to the café at wholesale prices.

There is also a book swap scheme where customers are being encouraged to leave a copy of their favourite book with a personal recommendation written inside for other cafe-goers to take away.

Caroline Digby, Eden’s sustainability director, said: "This is an exciting moment for us – it’s the first time we’ve had an Eden base outside our home in Bodelva, and it’s great to be able to link up Eden with our nearest major shopping centre.

“We hope the Eden Project Café will help draw people into St Austell town centre and play a role in its regeneration. It will be a place for people in St Austell and the wider Clay area to come together over a coffee, showcase their projects and initiatives, find out about sustainable living and take part in some exciting Eden activities for all the family, such as den-building or story-telling.

"We believe passionately in the future of St Austell and would like to play a part in its development in the coming years.”

Eden has been awarded a £160,000 grant from Cornwall Council from the Eco-communities Programme of Development to support the fit-out of the café and an events programme aimed at attracting more people to shop in the town centre as well as promoting and providing information to residents about the Eco-communities development.

The grant award is part of a 2009/10 £9.5 million package of works awarded to Cornwall Council by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Julian German, Cornwall Council cabinet member for the Environment, said: “I am delighted that the Eden Project Café has opened its doors this week. Funding from Cornwall Council has helped to create one of the first low-carbon community hubs right in the centre of St Austell. It will also serve as a base for a wide range of activities and events to attract more people to visit the town and see for themselves the transformation it is going through.”

Claire Daniel, centre manager of White River Place, which has won a national award for most sustainable retail development, said: “As a lifelong resident of St Austell, I know how much of an impact this community café will have. White River Place has brought a new dimension to St Austell and this link with our universally popular neighbours at the Eden Project will benefit the town enormously.”

The Eden Project Café opened its doors for the first time today (Thursday, February 17), and will be open everyday as well as on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.