News story

New life for historic marine research centre

The UK’s oldest marine research centre has re-opened after the NDA joined new funding partners to ensure its long-term future.

The NDA’s £300,000 award, via the Magnox Socio-Economic Scheme, is part of a £4 million package for Millport Field Centre, on the small island of Cumbrae, North Ayrshire, which lies just across the water from the NDA’s decommissioning site Hunterston A.

The earlier loss of grant funding had led to closure, in 2013, of the historic facility which was established in the 19th century after a floating laboratory moored at the island and attracted a stream of distinguished scientists. Its museum and aquarium attracted many visitors.

An independent charity, the Field Study Council, stepped in to acquire the site and a range of partners, including the NDA, is now helping to transform and expand the Centre, formerly owned by the University of London.

The £3 million Phase One cost was funded by North Ayrshire Council, the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The NDA’s £300,000 contribution was made via the Magnox Socio-Economic Scheme.

To complete the project, work has started on Phase Two, costing £1 million, and involving a new aquarium plus further improvements to teaching facilities.

Rob Lucas, FSC Chief Executive, said:

The generous support of £300,000 from the Magnox Socio-Economic Scheme has been instrumental in securing the long-term future of the former Marine Biological Station at Millport. The Island’s fragile economy was badly impacted by the closure of the station and the support from NDA to Phase Two will secure long-term future employment, bring in new visitors and allow future generations of scientists and the public to expand their understanding of the environment

FSC’s long-term s plan is to focus on marine science field study, while the new aquarium should also attract more visitors to Cumbrae, providing a welcome economic boost to the island.

Bill Hamilton, NDA Head of Stakeholder Relations, said:

Supporting transformational projects such as this will mitigate against the impact on the North Ayrshire economy when our nearby Hunterston ‘A’ site is decommissioned. NDA is delighted to help fund this project which will provide long-term sustainability for Millport Field Centre.