North Devon’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: Press Release

North Devon’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: Press Release

THE hunt is on for a water-front site that could be home to a £20.9 million oceanic learning centre in North Devon.

The search has gained added urgency because the project – a rare blend of visitor attraction and “university” of the sea – has just cleared the first hurdle in its bid for Big Lottery funding.

Andy Bell, local co-ordinator for North Devon’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, said: “We already have some sites in mind, but we are open to any suggestions within the biosphere area that might be available.

“The fact that we have passed the first stage in the bid process is great news and adds impetus to our search for a suitable home.”

The primary aim of the project is to examine the relationship of the ocean with the environment and its impact on how we live; not forgetting that what we do on land affects the seas.

As well as providing interactive displays for visitors, it would be a centre of learning and research for local schools, with links to Bideford and North Devon Colleges and the county’s universities.

It also aims to tap into the knowledge and expertise of 600 scientists available to the Institute of Sustainable Water, Integrated Management and Ecosystem Research at Liverpool University.

Mr Bell said: “When the project is running to full capacity, there could be around 200 students, both local and from outside the region, taking mainly short-term courses there. It will also provide up to 30 new jobs in the centre alone.

“Climate change and energy extraction, including hydro-electric power and current turbines, will obviously feature heavily on the curriculum, and we could help local fishermen to get better value through the management and conservation of stocks.”

The physical building concept which is being developed by Gale and Snowden Architects will be extremely environmental friendly and capable of putting more energy into the grid that it takes out. 

One element of the project bid – which is being submitted through the Northern Devon Coast and Countryside Service – is for a new visitor centre on a brown-field site near Braunton Burrows.

It would form part of a network using local libraries, information centres and museums to take the project to all areas of the community. Included in the project is a community grant pot of £2M that follows the same style as used in the North Devon Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to help the community put into practice their own solutions to the problem of having a good lifestyle without harming the environment.

Under Big Lottery rules, 25 per cent – in this case, £5.2 million – must be found by the bidder. Several authorities and local groups, including the South West Regional Development Agency, English Nature, Devon County, North Devon and Torridge District Councils, Christie Devon estates and British Petroleum are backing the project in principle and collectively want to see it succeed, but have yet to confirm any level of possible financial involvement.

Mr Bell said: “In making our original submission to the Lottery Fund, we were aware that in the past there have been some major schemes that have not matched expectations. We genuinely believe that this project can succeed and that it can provide a massive boost the local community.

“The North Devon biosphere reserve is the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom and the proposals we are making should give us even more pride in our beautiful part of the country as well as help to give a much needed boost to our communities.”

Editors Notes:
1. The Biosphere Reserve in North Devon is the only functioning Biosphere Reserve in the UK.
2. Biosphere Reserves are internationally acclaimed areas for demonstrating sustainable development working with world class sets of ecosystems.
3. There are 482 Biosphere Reserves in 102 different countries.
4. Biosphere Reserve are nominated by the state and ratified by UNESCO
5. Northern Devon Coast and Countryside Service is a pernership organisation funded by Countryside Agency, Devon County Council, North Devon District Council, Torridge District Council.
6. North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve covers over 1400 square miles and includes the catchements of the rivers Taw and Torridge the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the sea area out to and including Lundy.
7. More information on the international network of Biosphere Reserves vist www.unesco.org/mab

For further information on this item contact:
Andrew Bell Biosphere Reserve Co-ordinator and Service Manager
01237 423655
andrew.bell@devon.gov.uk