Scottish Seabird Centre unveils plans for a National Marine Centre


The Scottish Seabird Centre, a conservation and education charity based in North Berwick, Lothian, has shared its proposals to create a National Marine Centre for Scotland.

The project, which will cost in the region of £5.5 million, focuses on delivering new and enhanced education and conservation programmes at the Centre and nationwide. It will transform the Seabird Centre to explore marine life above and below the waves, including seabirds. Working with partners throughout Scotland, it will provide a national hub to increase appreciation and understanding of Scotland's amazing marine wildlife and communicate ground-breaking marine research taking place nationwide.

Grace Martin, Project Director for the National Marine Centre, said: "The Scottish Seabird Centre currently offers visitors an opportunity to engage with nature in a sustainable way. As a conservation and education charity, we welcome 4,000 school children each year and lead projects such as SOS Puffin.

"But, as with all charities, we must move with the times to remain viable and to achieve our objectives of inspiring people to care for wildlife and the natural environment. We have more education requests that we can accommodate and visitor expectations are at an all-time-high. Our vision is to create a centre that is of national significance and one that the local community is proud of."

Tom Brock, Andy Davey and Grace Martin with the plans (Photo: Phil Wilkinson)

Simpson and Brown, the original Seabird Centre architects, who specialise in conservation projects, creative adaption of existing buildings and the design of environmentally-sound initiatives, have been working closely with multi award-winning exhibition designers Event Communications to develop the plans. A dedicated advisory group, led by Professor John Baxter, comprising scientists, researchers and practitioners, are providing input on marine-related content for the exhibitions and activities.

Professor Baxter, Principal Advisor — Marine, at Scottish Natural Heritage and a trustee of the Seabird Centre, added: "The marine environment of Scotland supports a fantastic array of habitats and wildlife. Under the surface of the seas is a hidden and very special world that we want to reveal and bring to life, for people of all ages, in exciting and engaging ways.

"Scottish universities are at the cutting-edge of marine environment research but there are at present limited opportunities for the public to share in this work. Through public engagement we know there is a high level of interest in our seas, coasts and wildlife. This new attraction will provide an immersive and interactive experience, communicating the latest research and inspiring people to look after our natural world. It is vital that we protect and conserve our seas and their wildlife for future generations."

The proposed plans will create a new education centre for visiting school groups as well as provide outreach and online educational resources. Within the new visitor attraction, a range of interactive exhibitions will take visitors on a fascinating journey, exploring the marine world that is often hidden and inaccessible. There will be a new welcome area as well as new retail and catering facilities, which provide valuable income to support the charity's objectives. Plans also feature an observatory with 360° views which will allow visitors to view North Berwick's stunning coastline.

An artist's impression.

The plans are being shared in North Berwick on 10, 13 and 19 April and people are invited to meet the project team and offer ideas and feedback. The plans will also be available online at www.seabird.org and feedback can also be provided by emailing the Centre: nmcproject@seabird.org

The Scottish Seabird Centre has been awarded development funding of £290,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to progress plans. HLF has also given its initial support for a £3.5 million bid for the project. A further £2 million must be secured through fundraising.

The new Centre is planned to open in 2020, timed for Visit Scotland's Year of Scotland's Coasts and Waters.