As the winter nights draw in and I reflect upon the adventures of the past few months, many have been around the coast of our glorious island. From the golden sands of West Wittering beach to puffin watching along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and up to the rugged wilds of Western Scotland, it’s hard to believe that no National Marine Parks exist along the United Kingdom’s 17,820 kilometres of coastline. Until now.
In January 2019, Plymouth City Council, working in association with the Blue Marine Foundation and other partners, secured government funding of £75,000 to move ahead with a project to create the first UK Marine National Park (MNP). The aim is to better protect and manage the waters around the city and to create a model which other areas can adopt to create a national network of marine parks. See here for more information on the project.
Plymouth Sound’s waters are already recognised for their national and international importance for wildlife and heritage – over 18 authorities have responsibilities for the waters – however concern exists that terminology can act as a barrier to public engagement.
The title of ‘National’ Marine Park is designed to engage the public and increasing awareness of how special an area is. The NMP would also seek to make the current designations more integrated in their work, strengthening existing marine conservation objectives and involving the local community.
Plymouth Council aim to deliver a range of benefits to the local area through the project. By encouraging the community to understand, enjoy, value and care for the marine and coastal environment, the Council also aims to improve health and wellbeing by increasing access for recreation. The opportunities for sustainable tourism are exciting, with one of the key objectives being to ensure those from disadvantaged backgrounds are able to enjoy the same opportunities to access the marine environment as others.
Marine Parks exist all over the world and take many forms of responsibilities and governance. Internationally, they are normally large however the concept proposed for the UK would allow NMPs to be of any size, the key thing is that they need to be special. The Plymouth Sound NMP would cover the marine protected areas, rivers and coastal waters as far as the eye can see.
If and when it is created, it is believed that the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park would hold the same level of significance as the UK’s 15 existing National Parks. The coastline of our nation holds a year round attraction to both domestic and overseas visitors, demonstrated by the 116 million day trips to the coast recorded in 2017. If rolled out across the UK, NMPs could generate further value from our marine environment and supplement traditional seaside economies by sustainably boosting tourism and creating jobs.
Planning Solutions Consulting Ltd have worked on a range of coastal projects delivering visitor experience feasibility studies through to tourism development plans as well as wider commercial strategies. We have also worked for several National Park Authorities. If you’d like to find out more about what we do please don’t hesitate to phone or email Richard Linington on 023 9248 1999.