It needs £15 million
A ‘pioneering’ maritime innovation centre could be built in Appledore.
Torridge councillors have voted to bid for around £15 million from the government’s levelling-up fund to create the Appledore Clean Maritime Innovation Centre – which the council says will place the area “at the core of maritime developments in the net zero age.”
It is hoped the project, to include the first university research centre in northern Devon, will establish the area as a world leading research and development space in the sector.
Plans presented at a full meeting of Torridge District Council this week show the centre will feature research and industry partnerships from Plymouth and Exeter universities, as well offering offices, workshops, a wet lab and aquaculture tanks to local and national businesses.
The bid to the levelling up fund will be the largest ever submitted by the district council. They say it will “act as a catalyst for local economic growth, by providing an anchor for floating offshore wind activity in northern Devon” – otherwise known as FLOW.
Electricity generated by the proposed Celtic Sea FLOW developments is equivalent to powering approximately three million homes, and around 3,000 jobs and £682 million in supply chain demand could be created across the south west and Wales.
The council says the project is a “real opportunity to move Appledore into a global maritime future, inspiring young people in the process and creating genuine economic benefits across the community.
“We hope to work with schools and education providers to build excitement around opening up new opportunities and inspire learners. Petroc are key partners in the project and are already developing a range of future maritime-focused courses to ensure the best possible skills pipeline for future sector needs.”
A report for the meeting outlined how the project seeks to help improve the Torridge economy, stating that GDP per head in Torridge is only £17,493 compared to £26,765 in neighbouring North Devon.
“In a district with the eighth lowest median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees and where 41 per cent of jobs pay under the living wage, with only 21.7 per cent of the Torridge population qualified to NVQ Level 4 or above 5, the centre is about changing local mindsets and through that the local economy,” it said.
Chances that the bid will succeed are said to be boosted because Torridge’s priority for levelling-up is at the highest level (level one).
Councillor Ken James (Independent, Milton & Tamarside), leader of the council, said: “Firstly I would like to say how genuinely excited I am that our council is developing and submitting to the government such a leading and innovative project, which will serve Torridge and our wider community for years to come.
“We aim to stay ahead of the game as the sector is already moving and developing very quickly. It’s great to be collaborating with our partners at Heart of the South West LEP (HotSW), academic institutions, the maritime sector including Maritime UK (SW), local businesses and other public sector bodies in an integrated approach that has such huge potential.
“This is clearly one of the most important decisions for jobs and growth this council has taken in recent years and we hope that our bid will be the catalyst that unlocks the investment to bring these plans to fruition.”
Torridge officers are now working with representatives from the academic institutions, local industry, and other partners to refine the bid that will need to be submitted by Wednesday 6 July.
The government expects to decide which bids have been successful by the autumn.