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£5M PROJECT FOR SPECIAL NORTH EAST COASTLINE
Today (Friday 3rd November), the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) announced that it has awarded a major new grant to benefit the very special coastline and communities of South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Hartlepool.
The £2.9 million support from the HLF’s Landscape Partnership programme makes possible an exciting new £5 million ‘Seascape’ scheme, which will deliver over 30 coastal projects from South Shields to Teesmouth over the next six years.
Seascape is a partnership and community approach to protecting and celebrating this fascinating stretch of coastline. It will be the first of its kind in the UK – HLF’s first marine Landscape Partnership.
As well as improving public access to beaches, Seascape will explore the heritage hidden beneath the waves, creating ‘snorkel safaris,’ producing a virtual reality wreck diving experience and offering opportunities for local people and visitors to enjoy being on and in the sea.
To deliver this exciting scheme of projects, a wide range of partners have come together, led by the Heritage Coast Partnership; these include:
South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Hartlepool Councils, the National Trust, Northumbrian Water, Durham Wildlife Trust, North East Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, Natural England, Groundwork, Marine Management Organisation, the Environment Agency, East Durham Heritage Group, Donnison School and Durham and Newcastle Universities.
The HLF grant is very significant news for everyone with an interest in the area. We’re absolutely thrilled to receive this major new grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund as it’s going to enable us to deliver fantastic new projects under the Seascape banner that will excite local communities and visitors alike.
Drew Bennellick, HLF Head of Landscape and Natural Heritage, says: “Across the UK people are increasingly realising that nature is in trouble and it’s time to take a more proactive approach.
“Schemes like these provide a creative solution to helping people reconnect with landscapes and the environment, to implement solutions at a truly landscape-scale and tackle issues such as soil loss and flooding by supporting partnerships and coalitions of the willing.”
Eric Wilton, National Trust’s General Manager, says “There’s so much that’s of interest in this area and the Seascape scheme will protect and promote that human and natural heritage. That includes unique geology formed by ice ages, our industrial past and the history of the Napoleonic and world wars.
“We’re particularly excited by the undersea wreck surveys. Because this is a soft rock coastline, water clarity isn’t as good as it is around Northumberland’s Farne Islands, for example. As a result, we don’t know as much as we should about our heritage beneath the waves. Most people don’t know that porpoises, dolphins and even humpback whales are seen off our coastline.
“During the First World War, this was part of the East Coast War Channel. Keeping this open for shipping was vital to the war effort and local fishing fleets acted as mine sweepers. We already know there are wrecks from this era off our coast.
“There are so many important stories to be told, so many wrecks to be recorded and surveyed, and that’s just one element of the Seascape project. This funding is hugely positive news for our region and we can’t wait to get underway.”
The successful bid for HLF funding included the results of a wide-ranging survey of local people and visitors. The Seascape Survey canvassed how people feel about the coast, what draws them to it and what they would like to see improved.
People are at the heart of Seascape and James McLean, Technical Policy Manager at Northumbrian Water, is keen to stress the project is not only about protecting and celebrating the area’s environment and history, but also about securing its future and involving more people in it.
James says: “We’re looking forward to working with our coastal communities to develop the detail of the projects over the next 18 months. We want to find our coastal champions and work together for a better future for our coast and its communities.
“We will be expanding opportunities for learning, training and enjoyment so that this fascinating coastline is better understood and appreciated, as well as growing a sense of ‘stewardship’ for generations to come.”
Seascape literally means an area of sea, coastline and land created by the actions and interactions of land and sea and by nature and man.
The Seascape project will begin with an 18 month development period beginning in January 2018 and followed by a four year delivery period.
Plans include the reintroduction of the small blue butterfly, construction of a new educational facility and the creation of a two-year trainee programme for eight individuals in natural, built and cultural heritage skills.
The England Coastal Path runs along much of the coast and leads through a wonderful mosaic of great natural, historical and geological interest, with dramatic views along the coastline and out across the North Sea, an area rich in shallow bays and headlands with yellow Magnesian Limestone cliffs.
It encompasses some of the most dramatic coast line in the North, with a rich shoreline worthy of the highest status nature conservation designations, notably home each May to a breeding colony of Little Terns, one of Britain’s rarest sea birds.
The Seascape project is only possible because of the open collaboration and support across all the partners involved.