THE region’s coastline is set to benefit from a multi-million-pound cash investment thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The grant funder is supporting coastal and marine heritage in the north and will award £2.78m to the Tyne to Tees, Shores and Seas Partnership scheme.

Funding will allow a long-anticipated £5m North-East coastal project to begin, which will benefit communities in South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Hartlepool over the next four years.

The project, more simply called SeaScapes, has taken three and a half years of detailed planning and preparation to arrive at this point and is now planned to begin later this year.

The SeaScapes scheme will deliver 23 projects – both on-shore and beneath the sea – from South Shields to Teesmouth over the next four years.

Its partnership and community approach to protecting and celebrating this fascinating stretch of coastline will be the first of its kind in the UK – the first Marine Landscape Partnership to be supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Focussing on the often-overlooked coast between South Shields and Seaton Carew, SeaScapes will offer opportunities for visitors from the area and further afield to explore the heritage hidden beneath the waves, take part in ‘snorkel safaris,’ and allow them to enjoy being on and in the sea – all against the backdrop of dramatic cliff-top views and a rich shoreline that is home to a breeding colony of Little Terns, one of Britain’s rarest sea birds each May.

The scheme will also seek to strengthen understanding of the sea and our relationships with it, encouraging people to get involved with a beach care programme to address the ever-increasing marine litter problem.

Heritage coast officer, Niall Benson, who led the bid on behalf of the SeaScapes Partnership said: “This funding is fantastic news for everyone living on and visiting this very special stretch of coastline.

“Thanks in part to television programmes like Blue Planet, there’s an unprecedented public interest in our seas and in marine conservation. So much of our natural, industrial, cultural and maritime heritage lies out-of-sight beneath the waves and through SeaScapes we’re looking forward to giving it more attention.

“The heritage of the Tyne to Tees seascape is locally and nationally significant and deserves to be better explored and celebrated. SeaScapes will do just that. The project is the result of a huge team effort and a lot of planning and we can’t wait to get started.”

David Renwick, director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, added: “Whilst our natural heritage has been identified as a key priority for us, marine and coastal heritage has been an area we haven’t really dipped our toes into as of yet.

We’re delighted to support this groundbreaking Seascapes partnership, and that it will stimulate communities to have a real and positive impact on our natural world and make sure that it can still be enjoyed by future generations. We know that encouraging people to get outside will boost their wellbeing, and the beautiful coastline that Seascapes will showcase is the perfect backdrop for it.”

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