Plymouth Sound, the UK’s first Marine Park

Laura White
Laura White

Plymouth Sound has now secured funding to become the UK’s first National Marine Park. As one of only five projects to receive funding from the National Lottery’s Heritage Horizon Award, it is hoped that creating the marine park will be able to ‘showcase to the world the unique and fantastic assets that Britain’s Ocean City has to offer, including an estimated 1,000 different species of marine life, and help boost the economy, attract more visitors and enable funding for research and a range of other benefits’.

The award of £9.5 million will enable the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park Board to work with stakeholders from all areas, such as defence, commercial fishing, angling, marine technology, visitor economy, research, as well as ecologists and conservation groups, to ensure that the thriving community there can continue alongside designated protection of the natural environment.

Plymouth City Council leader, Nick Kelly, described the grant as ‘a game changer for Plymouth’. He said: “For too long Plymouth hasn’t fully embraced the sea and its waterfront. This funding means we can now put the Sound right at the heart of our plans for Plymouth.

‘We are in a unique position, within a unique landscape – fantastic wildlife, an historic waterfront, rich maritime heritage and cutting edge marine research, but we need to look after this special place. We need people from all walks of life to get in it, on it, talk about it and as a city cherish the Sound for future generations.”
The Heritage Horizon Award was created to fund ‘transformative, innovative and collaborative’ projects, prioritising landscapes and nature, and heritage at risk. The £50 million fund has been shared between the Cairngorms National Park, Peatland Progress in the Great Fen, restoration of the Winter Garden at Great Yarmouth, The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, and Plymouth Sound.

The Plymouth Sound bid is based on three key elements:

  • Physical infrastructure: creating gateways to the park with improved facilities at Tinside cove and pool, Mount Batten Peninsula and watersports centre, the National Marine Aquarium and Mount Edgcumbe, as well as enhancing community access points thoughout the park;
  • Social infrastructure: a city-wide community engagement programme designed to get all Plymothians out in, on, under and next to the water and develop new ‘green’ marine employment opportunities;
  • Digital park: using the latest tech to create new ways of engaging people with the park and learning about its hidden treasures without getting wet.
Plymouth Sound funding. PIX BY WAYNE PERRY – 13/7/21

Commenting on the funding boost for the National Marine Park, Luke Pollard, MP, said: “I was proud to formally propose creating the UK’s first National Marine Park in 2017. We have such an incredible opportunity to reconnect with our oceans and I am glad that the City Council’s bid has been a success.

‘This needs to be a cross-party project. It was started by a Labour MP, took its first steps with a Labour Council, and now has a Conservative Council taking the helm. This is truly Plymouth’s project, and it belongs to the people.

‘This funding means we will be able to create a truly stunning legacy for future generations, protect our oceans, better communicate what happens at sea and promote jobs on the water. It is a fantastic day for Plymouth.”
Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Ros Kerslake, said: “We were focused on supporting heritage throughout the emergency in 2020, so I am pleased we can now announce awards which back big ideas and unlock possibilities.

‘The pandemic has shown us all clearly what matters to us, particularly in relation to nature and climate change. This is a huge priority for us as an organisation, and three of these projects will be transformational for the green environment.

‘All five share qualities of huge ambition, significant collaboration and the prospect of life-changing benefits for people and places. This is an exciting day for the UK’s heritage.”

Stuart McLeod, director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are thrilled to take part in shaping Plymouth Sound’s future and delighted our funding will help to establish the UK’s first National Marine Park.

‘This project will not only leave a positive social and economic legacy for the region but an environmental one too, helping to counter the effects of climate change on the marine environment. Plymouth Sound aims to tackle and improve the consequences of the current climate crisis on the area and its marine life.”

Plymouth Sound already has a large number of protective designations in place, including a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area, a Marine Conservation Zone of 1,530 hectares, 2,623 total hectares of Sites of Special Scientific Interest and three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The site is also home to a number of protected heritage features.

The Plymouth Sound National Marine Park website states: ‘The work has already begun and it will evolve over time. Our aim is for the Park to develop locally, in a way that provides learning that can be replicated nationwide. It is an exciting opportunity that also comes with great responsibility.

‘We have a twin track approach.

  1. Locally, working with stakeholders over the next year to produce a draft business and finance model that will
    be consulted upon.
  2. Nationally, sharing our learning with national partners to act as a proving ground for the development
    of National Marine Parks across the UK.

‘This does not mean that developments, projects and initiatives that fit with the vision for the National Marine Park will not commence until then. There are already many exciting initiatives underway including:

  • building the type 26 frigates;
  • Oceansgate;
  • Marine Business Technology Centre (MBTC);
  • The Smart Sound;
  • Mayflower 400;
  • Illuminate;
  • Eco-moorings trials;
  • Fishing net beacons that reduce ghost fishing;
  • Establishment of the Eddystone Institute;
  • Innovate seagrass restoration.

We want to continue to develop and promote our unique offer for enterprise and development that supports
‘Place, People, and Planet’.’

The park aims to change how a landscape and its people can work together. The ‘Park in the Sea’ will transform lives, employment, education, volunteering and environment, re-establishing the bond between people and place. It is estimated the grant will support the development of 20 new ‘blue’ enterprises and create 464 jobs.

Local Life