Right of Reply: Jonathan Smales

The executive director of Earth Centre in Doncaster replies to Nonie Niesewand's criticism of the National Lottery-aided project as one of the design turkeys of the past year
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The Independent Culture
NONIE NIESEWAND may well be a "connoisseur of design disasters" (what a helpful thing to be at the dawn of the new millennium), but it is a great pity, given the prominence you gave to her "year of the turkey" piece that she shows no equivalent talent for, or interest in, sound research to back up the grandiose judgements that she so loudly trumpets.

For the record, Earth Centre was conceived in 1990 but not as a green theme park; Future Systems did not design the Ark, to which she refers, until mid-1995; it has never contained a rainforest (and what a ludicrous idea that it should); phase 2 has not "been axed" - construction work will begin on 4 January; the canopy of photo-voltaic cells is indeed to be built in phase 2; phase 3 - the Ark which she seems to admire as architecture only, - is the subject of a major funding plan that is currently in train.

Finally, in case your readers got entirely the wrong impression, Earth Centre was voted Tourism Project of the Year by the British Guild of Travel Writers. It has reclaimed 400 acres of badly damaged coal mine and created beautiful gardens and interesting educational demonstrations and exhibitions. As a small charity we have raised large sums of matching funding and embarked upon the truly millennial task of designing, funding and building a major new sustainable development in and for Britain.

A lot of words will be spoken over the next few days about the significance of this moment in history. One thought I should like to add to the cacophony is that with a further dramatic increase in world population by the middle of the next century and compound economic growth, global society may need to be at least 10 times more efficient in our use of resources than we are today. Earth Centre is about facing up to that challenge and trying to inspire people and involve them in what is unquestionably the key issue of our age. In a few years, as the project matures and as new features are added, we are confident that we can make a bold and unique contribution to the advancement of sustainability that brings widespread benefits to all.