TALKS are being held in an attempt to attract an £18m tourist venue to the North-East.

York is one of four cities in the running to become home to the Spice project.

Billed as the Eden project of the North, it will feature shops, caf bars, and restaurants, an education centre and specialist area for the development and growing of spices and herbs.

Project director Jan Smithies said: "I saw the Eden Project, in Cornwall, and I was really impressed with what they had achieved, not just as a visitor experience but also in terms of the effect it was having on the economy down there.

"Ideally, I would like it to be located in the North because I want it to complement the Eden Project and Kew Gardens, which are both down south.

"The North-East is an excellent example of how cultural projects, like the Baltic arts centre, have had an impact on the local economy and changed the perception of an area."

The city faces competition from Liverpool, Leeds and east Lancashire.

Visitors will be taught about the history of herbs and spices and specialist stores will stage demonstrations on how spices are turned into the finished product.