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Sunday, September 20, 2015 - 11:45

The Eden Project signed an historic agreement today (Sunday September 20 2015) to create a spectacular new £100 million China Eden centre in what will be its first big building venture overseas.

The UK-based educational charity has teamed up with the leading developer China Jinmao Holdings Limited to design and develop an iconic tourism and education project in the major city of Qingdao on the east coast of the People's Republic of China.

A contract was signed at the British Ambassador's Residence in Beijing in the presence of UK Business Secretary Sajid Javid, as part of Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's visit to develop economic and financial dialogue with China.

The four signatories of the China Qingdao Eden Project Cooperation Agreement Signing Ceremony were Eden Project Ltd, China Jinmao Holdings Limited, Qingdao High-tech Industrial Development Zone Administrative and Qingdao City Construction Investment (Group) Co. Ltd.

Eden was represented by Executive Vice Chairman and Co-founder Sir Tim Smit and Executive Director David Harland, who have been working over the past 14 months on this historic deal for the project.

Mr Javid paid tribute to the Eden Project and its China partners for reaching the deal to create the first overseas Eden.

Following the signing, Sir Tim said: “It is humbling to be in such a great country as China and to hear your own Business Minister say such kind things about the importance of Eden and to have those words reflected in the ambitions voiced by both the Deputy Mayor of Qingdao and the Chief Executive of our partners Jinmao.

“It feels like we have been given the opportunity to do something very special and important and we are proud to take all that is best from the UK to forge new partnerships in China - for it is here above all other places on earth that the shape of our collective future will be set over the next 20 years."

Sir Tim has described China Eden as by far the biggest development for the Eden Project since it fully opened in a former clay pit in Cornwall in 2001.

He said the ambition for China Eden is to create a globally-renowned and iconic tourism attraction and centre which demonstrates the highest-quality sustainable construction practices - just as Eden has in the UK.

The stunning location for China Eden has stupendous views of the whole city. The project fits perfectly with Eden's key transformation and regeneration themes and will bring to life to a currently sterile and derelict site. Sir Tim said it has the potential to become instantly recognisable worldwide.

Sir Tim added: "We have been approached many times before to create Eden projects, but have always declined as we did not wish to copy Eden in Cornwall. This opportunity is exciting because our partners share our view that we should build a project that builds on 4,000 years of Chinese relations with the environment and Eden's fresh approach to education."

David Harland said after signing the agreement on behalf of Eden: "The support of the business secretary is hugely significant and appreciated, as was the support of UKTI and the FCO who have been at our shoulder the whole way.

“At a moment like this, we should pause on the achievement of Cornwall and doff our cap to the many people throughout Cornwall and the UK who went the extra mile to support us and who believed in us. There are many, many people including those working at Eden today who deserve to share the credit with us.

“We have embarked upon this adventure in the hope that it will provide a wider source of revenue - and will reach a global audience - to allow us to both support and grow Eden Cornwall which will, whatever happens, always be the mothership and the benchmark by which other projects will be judged."

Since fully opening, more than 16 million people have visited Eden and it has generated £1.6 billion for the wider economy. Among many awards, it has been voted Best UK Leisure Attraction for the last four years and it was recently hailed as the top British landmark of the 21st Century.

As an exemplar of sustainability and education, Eden has been extending its influence in China over several years. The Eden China agreement follows visits by Jinmao delegations to Cornwall and return visits by Sir Tim and David Harland to Qingdao.

Jinmao are the real estate developers of the state-owned Sinochem group, one of the world's top 500 enterprises, and focus on hotels, iconic buildings and property developments, including the Jinmao Tower in Shanghai, previously China's tallest building at 88 storeys.

Qingdao is a coastal city of nearly nine million people in Shandong Province, halfway between Shanghai and Beijing. The city is backed by mountains and surrounded on three sides by the Yellow Sea. It is famous for hosting the 2008 Olympic sailing races, for having the largest bathing beach in Asia and for its most famous export, Tsingtao Beer. Qingdao already has annual tourism of 63 million visitors, many of whom are Korean and Japanese.

Eden and Jinmao have been consulting on China Eden with the Mayor of Qingdao, Mr Zhang Xinqi. The site is on a prime location, a large area of reclaimed and environmentally-damaged land originally used for salt production and then prawn breeding and is located at the confluence of two rivers.

Developing China Eden, Eden is also working with BRE, the Buildings and Research Establishment, which has an office at Eden's base in Cornwall, and London-based Grimshaw Architects, who designed the Eden Project, including the world-famous Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes.