Is Plymouth going to become the UK's first National Marine Park?
PUBLISHED: 10:30 29 January 2019
CHRISSY HARRIS finds out what gaining National Marine Park status could mean for a city with such a deep connection to the sea
You could be doing something as mundane as popping out for a pint of milk in Plymouth and that salty air will fill your lungs.
This city lives and breathes the sea, from the workers in Devonport Dockyard – the largest naval base in Western Europe – to the scuba divers exploring sunken wrecks off the coast and the kids out enjoying a sailing lesson across the Sound.
This rich maritime culture is why Plymouth is in the running to become the UK’s first National Marine Park.
Much like Dartmoor’s National Park status, the prestigious title would really put Plymouth’s marine environment on the map as a place of global importance to be celebrated and looked after.
Conservation work could be given a boost and it’s hoped more locals and visitors would be inspired to enjoy, value and care for one of the finest landscapes in the country.
Everything is in the very early stages but just the possibility of becoming the country’s first National Marine Park has already generated much excitement here.
“We are Britain’s Ocean City, with a stunning and vibrant waterfront and a huge natural harbour,” says Tudor Evans, leader of Plymouth City Council and a key figure in the campaign. “Plymouth is the natural choice for the UK’s first National Marine Park.”
Top scientists, academics, business leaders and tourism bosses, along with the Blue Marine Foundation and Plymouth City Council are working together to try to push the proposals forward.
A funding bid for an in-depth study into the practicalities of becoming a marine park was recently submitted to the European Union and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
It follows a successful conference at Plymouth’s National Marine Aquarium in June, attended by 130 experts from all over the UK.
Here, there was overwhelming support for Plymouth to become the UK’s first marine park and act as a blueprint for other areas of the country.
Marine biologist Keith Hiscock, an Associate Fellow of the city’s Marine Biological Association was at the conference and is backing the plans.
“It’s a worthy project,” he says, adding that it would help more lives to be “enriched by our fabulous marine life.”
Keith is a member of Plymouth Sound Divers and has spent years exploring the area’s hidden depths and studying the incredible wildlife.
He hopes becoming a marine park will improve local infrastructure - such as parking and boat slipways – to make it even easier to access the sea.
“The marine park is all about helping people to enjoy the waters out of Plymouth, whether that’s sailing across the surface, understanding more about the wildlife, scuba diving or getting involved in education projects,” says Keith.
“It should improve the facilities for people to enjoy the various aspects of the marine environment. Plymouth does that pretty well already, why not just acknowledge it?”
The Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) is working with Plymouth City Council to promote the park idea.
It’s hoped that the plans could build on existing legislation, which already protects sections of the waters in the area.
Charles Clover, Executive Director of BLUE, says Plymouth Sound is the perfect place to make marine history.
“It is a wonderful landscape and ecosystem, above and below water,” he says. “It deserves to be protected for its beauty and wild nature and for recreation and public enjoyment – three of the reasons why we created national parks on land 70 years ago.
“Back then, not many people had scuba gear so they couldn’t enjoy the wonders below the waves, but they can now.
“Plymouth is Britain’s ocean city with three marine institutes and a public ready to enjoy what is on its doorstep, so it is the place to start.”
Watch this deep blue space.