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Volunteers sign up in droves to be part of nation's first marine park

Kayaking at Mount Batten Watersports Activity Centre (image courtesy: Mount Batten Watersports Activity Centre/Visit Plymouth)

£22 million project aims to connect every Plymouth resident to the sea

More than 100 volunteers have already signed up ahead of a citywide recruitment programme to be part of the UK’s first national marine park in Plymouth which aims to get every resident connected to the sea.

The city council says people are enthusiastic about the project, which has secured over half of the £22 million needed from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Councillors agreed a business case at a cabinet meeting this week, including £2 million of capital funding already in the budget, a fundraising target of £2 million underwritten by the council and expected to be met by levelling up funding already secured, and £500,000 from the Mount Batton Centre, a watersports charity, towards work on a pontoon there.

Cllr Tudor Evans (Lab, Ham) said the “awesome” project would revolutionise how people connect with, enjoy and celebrate the sea.

He said the council had spent two years “road testing” the project with 10,000 people engaging in activities, and now it was time to “make it happen”.

The first work in a five-year funding programme includes refurbishing the first floor and terrace of Tinside Lido, described currently as “grim” by the council leader. It will create a multi-purpose event space for people to enjoy “one of the best views in Plymouth”.

The new pontoon at Mount Batten will commence this year along with refurbishment to the centre cafe, accessible changing rooms and improved access to the seventeenth century tower.

A 'swim safe' programme will include swimming, snorkelling and diving to build confidence in, on and under the water, rockpool encounters, community coastal cleans and a ‘sea in your school’ key stage 2 programme.

“This is what happens when a city gets behind an idea,” said Kat Deeney, the council head of environmental planning.

Former teacher Cllr Sally Cresswell (Lab, Stoke) said it was worth coming out of retirement and back into the classroom for: “It’s that brilliant,” she said.

Teachers will be taught skills so they can provide a richer curriculum and there will be four paid internships for young people who want a career in the marine or other relevant sectors.

“This is a park for all, it’s truly inclusive, completely engaging and what a momentous moment for our city,” she said.

Cllr Evans said people were sceptical about Plymouth’s attempt to secure another large Heritage Lottery award after £15 million was granted to The Box museum and art gallery in 2020.

“It was a bit cheeky for us to have another go, but we knew we had something really special and when we put our minds to something, funders trust us to come up with the goods.”

He said as part of the project two swimming platforms off Plymouth Hoe were coming back for the summer for people’s enjoyment.

Plymouth received £20 million of levelling up cash at the end of last year to regenerate its waterfront and improve the ferry port for lorries. The freeport, national marine park and net zero projects will all benefit from the cash.

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