Plymouth Sound, the home of UK’s first National Marine Park has been awarded £9.5 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to make its vision of a park in the sea a reality.

People across the city and surrounding the Sound are celebrating after learning the bid for the Heritage Horizon Awards has been successful.

Leader of Plymouth City Council Nick Kelly said: “This is truly a game changer for Plymouth. 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.”

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park will reconnect an entire city to the sea, the marine environment and its history. The 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, Mount Edgcumbe as well as enhancing community access points though out 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.

Councillor Kelly said: “The scale of what we want to achieve is vast. We have a two year development period where we will be talking to everyone and anyone, shaping and testing ideas before the five year delivery plan gets into full swing.

“This administration is committed to listening to what people want and this project has enormous potential to unite and inspire people, enabling everyone to feel healthier and happier as well as tackle some of the big issues that are threatening the Sound and our environment. It’s exciting stuff.”

The bid has cross party support. Leader of the Opposition Councillor Tudor Evans added: “This is just epic news. The Park in the Sea really is a people’s park and over the next two years residents and businesses across the city and in surrounding communities - not just those living close to the waterfront – will be encouraged to explore what the Sound has to offer and then shape the project.”

The project outlines five ‘gateways’ to the park - each with a particular focus that will inspire more people to explore, connect and enjoy the sea in all sorts of different ways.

  • Tinside - for health and wellbeing activities
  • National Marine Aquarium - a hub for nature and the environment
  • Mount Batten - active recreation
  • Mount Edgcumbe - heritage - learning about the Sound’s epic history including over 600 wrecks that lie beneath the waves
  • Smart Sound - digital harnessing the power of the latest digital technology

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.

Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS, Director of the Marine Institute at the University, said: “For well over a century, the remarkable natural resource of Plymouth Sound has attracted marine scientists from all over the world. What is particularly exciting about this funding is that it will allow us to work together across the city to develop projects that connect the land and sea as a system, and convey that sense of wonder to a wider audience, particularly those who live in the city. There are amazing opportunities through science, health and the arts – literally, an ocean of potential.”

Roger Maslin, Ocean Conservation Trust and National Marine Aquarium CEO says “We are delighted to hear the news that Plymouth Sound National Marine Park has received National Lottery Heritage Fund support. Our conservation work is centred around people taking positive action, so we look forward to helping as many people as possible experience and connect with the Ocean here in Plymouth.

“As an Ocean Conservation Charity, we are delighted to continue our conservation, education and engagement programmes here in the Southwest and will continue supporting the fantastic team at Plymouth City Council to ensure that both locals and visitors connect with the National Marine Park in new and exciting ways.”

Bob Baggott Chair Mountbatten Watersports Centre added: “This a brilliant result for Plymouth and the Southwest, we are proud to be part of the fantastic team led by Plymouth City Council that has secured this Heritage Horizon Award. Working in partnership with the other key stakeholders we will be able to expand our reach and work with more individuals and communities to help them explore a range of on, under and next to the water experiences that reconnects them to the ocean.

From the lone angler to fishing crews, from swimmers to those who earn a living from the sea, the park is not just about encouraging people to get closer to the ocean but protecting it and piloting projects that could help tackle our greatest challenges such as climate change in a way that actually improves lives.

Ideas on the horizon to encourage people to explore include innovation labs, a marine observation post, a hidden treasures of the sound project as well as developing digital park apps. There’s also plans for National Martine Park Festival for anyone to try swimming, sailing or paddleboarding as well Give it a Go events.

Plans also include neighbourhood history projects and activities that enable everyone to experience what the Sound has to offer.  The whole city will encouraged to join in.

The project is not just about leisure activities, it will include piloting sustainable fisheries initiatives as well as working closely with schools on STEM activities, careers in ocean-related fields and ocean citizenship. A ranger programme is also on the cards to help look after the Sound and run activities that allow people to learn and connect with the Sound.

Facts and figures about Plymouth Sound

  • It’s home to over 1,000 different species of marine life
  • Over 6,400 hectares is designated a Special Area of Conservation, it also has a Special Protection Area, a Marine Conservation Zones plus numerous Sites of Special Scientific Interest and three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • It’s home to HMNB Devonport, the largest naval base in Western Europe
  • Brittany Ferries operate out of Millbay Port and across the Sound at Cattedown there are commercial wharves as well as an international fish market.
  • Plymouth is home to an internationally important marine research cluster - including Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the Marine Biological Association and the University of Plymouth
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