Eden Project executive director to depart

Gaynor Coley will leave the Cornish visitor attraction for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew; Eden founder Tim Smit has also taken a new role

Gaynor Coley and Tim Smit
Gaynor Coley and Tim Smit

Gaynor Coley, executive director of the Eden Project, is to leave the Cornish visitor attraction in the autumn to join the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as director of public programmes.

The announcement of Coley’s departure comes less than two months after Tim Smit, the co-founder of the Eden Project, stepped down from the day-to-day management of the project to take up a new role at the visitor attraction.

Smit and Coley held the roles of joint chief executives until this summer.    

Smit has become executive chairman of Eden Regeneration, a new unit that will focus on the creation of projects at the attraction.

Coley joined the Eden Project as finance director in 1997 and became managing director in 2000. She will replace Dr Angela McFarlane, director of public engagement and learning at the Royal Botanic Gardens, but her role will also include commercial activities.

The Eden Project is owned by the Eden Trust, a registered charity that last year had an income of just under £31m. The trust itself does not employ any staff and the day-to-day running of the project is managed by the Eden Project Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary.    

The attraction recently cut 53 jobs to help save £2m a year. The attraction attributed the job losses to a fall in visitor numbers in 2012 as a result of the Olympics, poor weather and the recession.

A spokesman said the board of Eden Project Limited would discuss finding a replacement for Coley at a meeting later this month. 

He added that following a disappointing start to the year, the recent good weather had brought an uplift in visitors to Cornwall and to the Eden Project.  

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