Please note – this blog was originally published on 13th February 2020
Plymouth at its heart is a coastal community; a city by the sea that continues to shape and define the lives of everyday Plymouth people – it is their heritage!
The creation of the UK’s first national marine park in Plymouth Sound is the latest step on a journey of respect for the water – working directly with the communities who live alongside it. The national marine park is home to 1000 species, 1000 years of history, 1000 adventures but also to hundreds of thousands of individual stories.
The world’s longest surveyed waters, a battleground and a playground: Plymouth Sound and the Hoe has been a place for congregation and community in times of trouble or celebration for generations.
Beside this there is the natural treasures that sit under the waves: Pink sea fans, jewel anemones and sea horses in our seagrass beds (I should tell you that Seagrass is 35x more effective at absorbing carbon than the rainforests!). It is this amazing intersection between people, place, landscape and community that is so significant and provides this project with the opportunity to innovate and be so transformational.
However for the first time in our history the horizon we have all relied on is not certain for the next generation. Our heritage is under severe threat. We are facing a climate emergency. Our physical infrastructure has disconnected people from the sea turning our backs on the ocean, habitats are being lost and our citizens have perhaps lost some of the saltiness in their blood. With every minute that slips away that we don’t arrest this decline this precious environment will degrade as will the memories and stories that have so long connected our community to the sea.
We have world class heritage that isn’t visible because it is under the water and as a result the connection between people, heritage and nature is fragile. The National Marine Park is an opportunity to turbo charge this world class heritage locally and then take this message to the whole of the UK. To start we want to bring to life our marine treasures for over 400,000 people in the travel to work area and engage 44,000 school children in our city. We want to create new apprenticeships, new gateways, new jobs, and an extensive action learning programme to share the journey with other coastal locations to commence the development of a network of National Marine Parks.
We are entering the UN decade of the oceans, we are supported by the UN ambassador for the oceans – Lewis Pugh (a Plymouth boy) and this project is as much about grass roots as it is about sea grass roots. So we have assembled a grand partnership that transcends political boundaries and government departments. We are collaborating with marine scientists, UN ambassadors, academics, teachers, the navy, marine advocates, wild swimmers, sailors, business people, athletes and our residents. We aim to create the model for the rest of the UK to follow.
Please note – this was written when Cllr Tudor Evans was Leader of Plymouth City Council between 2018-2021.