Right of Reply: Jonathan Smales

The chief executive of the Earth Centre replies to criticisms in a feature by Nonie Niesewand
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The Independent Culture
TO MANY, sustainable development is a tricky and elusive concept and an inelegant phrase. The Earth Centre takes up the challenge by providing a place for people to visit which aims to inspire and demonstrate the difference everyone can make in their daily lives.

Next April, the first phase of our adventure opens to the public. The Earth Centre will provide an effective balance between education and entertainment - combining purpose with pleasure - giving an insight into the challenges of the future.

Projects opening in April include the Ecology Park, an extraordinary audio-visual show in the Planet Earth galleries, innovative action points, challenges for finding out about the landscape, striking green buildings, a wilderness adventure play area and a sensory trail.

Built on a 400 acre site which is both a landscape recovering from a hundred years of coal mining and a striking and often beautiful amalgam of river valleys, limestone escarpment, wetlands and ancient woodland, the Earth Centre has a powerful sense of place. Providing 150 local jobs in an area of some of the greatest poverty and unemployment in Britain is an important feature of the project.

Major lottery-assisted projects present a huge challenge to their sponsors and partners. But we are extremely proud of what has already been achieved at the Earth Centre. Isn't it time we turned to new ideas which strike a better balance between people and the rest of nature and enable us to see the world in a different way, even if such projects carry the risk of being so imperfect? If not now, when? Wish us luck with the Earth Centre and do come and visit.

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