Helping coastal communities to thrive

Research project could helps towns in East Devon.

Towns along the East Devon coast could become part of a research project which is being launched at Plymouth University.

Marine scientists have launched an international collaboration which will aim to place direct values on the benefits for communities of being by the coast.

The VALMER project, which will be officially launched in Plymouth next week, will see experts from France and the South West working together to help coastal communities make the most of their surroundings.

From the English and French sides of the Channel, six communities will be chosen to act as case studies and the research team will look to test elements of the developing framework within those areas.

It is focused on the South West of England (Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Plymouth) and the northern coast of Brittany in France.

The �3.7million project is part funded by the European Union Interreg IV A ‘Channel’ Programme, and other partner agencies include the county councils of Devon, Dorset and Cornwall, the UK Marine Biological Association and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, as well as various similar bodies in France.

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Dr Fletcher, an associate professor in the School of Marine Science and Engineering, said: “The Channel area is under increasing pressure from a wide range of competing sectors and interests, and managing this shared space effectively is critical to enable the sustainable use of this resource. We aim to show how placing monetary and non-monetary values on ecosystem services can enhance policy, planning and management of marine and coastal environments.”

The benefits to health of being, or living, by the coast have long been recognised but the economic values for individual communities are far more difficult to quantify.

Dr Fletcher said: “If an inland community is run down, you can say invest in its infrastructure or build offices to generate employment and income. But for coastal communities it is more difficult because they do not have the same land base available. At the same time, building an offshore wind farm, for example, may work for some areas but not others. This is about developing a joined-up approach that we hope will help coastal communities thrive in the future.”