£9.5million for UK’s first National Marine Park: Plymouth Sound

The National Lottery Heritage Fund grants a £9.5million Heritage Horizon Award to UK’s first National Marine Park: Plymouth Sound

  • Heritage Horizon Award instrumental in shaping Plymouth Sound’s future
  • The UK’s first National Marine Park aims to protect the area’s estimated 1,000 species of marine life and vast seafaring economy
  • This ‘Park in the Sea’ will transform lives, employment, education, volunteering and tackle climate change


One of the world’s most important and visually stunning natural harbours, where the largest naval base in Europe meets fragile sea grass beds, Plymouth Sound and its Estuaries Special Area of Conservation have multiple designations for protected habitats and support over 1,000 species of fish and other marine animal life.


Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, a £9.5million Heritage Horizon Award from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will completely reimagine how a landscape and its people can work together. The UK’s first National Marine Park – Plymouth Sound’s ‘Park in the Sea’ – is set to transform the local community’s lives, employment, education, volunteering and environment, re-establishing the bond between people and place.

An ambitious programme of co-creation will engage the whole city and beyond, reaching deep into communities to reconnect residents with their cultural ties to the sea. It will include a new ‘Welcome Centre’ at the National Marine Aquarium, new accessible facilities and a project working with the Ocean Conservation Trust to explore how seagrass can function as a carbon store. It is estimated the grant will support the development of 20 new ‘blue’ enterprises and create 464 jobs. A key aim of the project is to tackle and improve the consequences of climate change on the area and its marine life, currently suffering from rise in temperatures, habitat degradation and human disconnection.

A landscape that once welcomed the Mayflower passengers, Sir Francis Drake, Captain Cook and Charles Darwin, Plymouth Sound is now home to over 400 fishing boats as well as over 600 wrecks, of which three are of protected status. It also houses HMNB Devonport, the largest naval base in Western Europe, as well as commercial ports, a substantial national fishing fleet, international fish market, commercial diver training, a global hub for marine leisure industries and an internationally important marine research cluster.

The Heritage Horizon Awards were launched in 2019 to support ambitious, innovative and transformational projects that will revolutionise UK heritage. These awards have become even more important since the pandemic, as they will transform lives and economies, put the UK at the lead of major environmental, cultural and heritage projects and show confidence in the heritage sector to rebuild and thrive.

At a time of enormous global challenges and climate change, the Heritage Horizon Award provides a national opportunity to nurture the innovation to completely reimagine how a landscape and its people can work together. More than a national marine park, this ‘Park in the Sea’ will re-establish the bond between community and sea that has defined Plymouth for centuries.

Stuart McLeod, Director England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, says: “We are thrilled to take part in shaping Plymouth Sound’s future and delighted our funding will help to establish the UK’s first National Marine Park. This project will not only leave a positive social and economic legacy for the region but an environmental one too, helping to counter the effects of climate change on the marine environment. Plymouth Sound aims to tackle and improve the consequences of the current climate crisis on the area and its marine life.

A key priority for us, investing in nature-based heritage improves people’s lives and makes communities better places to live, creating jobs, supporting local economies, driving tourism and improving health and wellbeing.

We ask the projects we fund to do their upmost to think sustainably, support nature’s recovery and consider the future of our cultural and natural heritage. Plymouth Sound will do exactly that – it will put the planet first and demonstrate how everyone can play their part in protecting it for future generations.”

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “It’s absolutely brilliant to see this investment in Plymouth’s heritage. This hugely ambitious, exciting project will not only protect and preserve Plymouth Sound but will also create jobs, support the local community and help the area to build back better from the pandemic. This is a wonderful day for our heritage and I can’t wait to see the difference this funding makes.”

Leader of Plymouth City Council Nick Kelly said: “This is truly a game changer for Plymouth. For too long Plymouth hasn’t fully embraced the sea and its waterfront – this funding means we can now put the Sound right at the heart of our plans for Plymouth.

We are in a unique position, within a unique landscape – fantastic wildlife, an historic waterfront, rich maritime heritage and cutting-edge marine research, but we need to look after this special place. We need people from all walks of life to get in it, on it, talk about it and as a city cherish the Sound for future generations.”