Dorset ship-sinking reef planners in £2.1m bid

Image caption,
Neville Copperthwaite wants to eventually sink two ships off the Dorset coast

Planners aiming to sink a warship off Dorset to create a reef have put in a £2.1m bid for government cash.

The Wreck to Reef group, led by Neville Copperthwaite, first mooted the idea of creating an artificial reef off Portland four years ago.

The group has struggled to find the funds to buy and prepare a ship for the seabed while pleas for a former navy vessel to be donated have been ignored.

A bid will be submitted to the government's Coastal Communities Fund.

The fund, which makes awards to projects to rejuvenate seaside assets or help emerging industries, was launched in 2011.

Last year, a total of £24m was handed out to projects including Cornwall's National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow and £2m over two years to create the National Coastal Tourism Academy in Bournemouth.

'Lease seabed'

This year's pot has been boosted to £28m and although Mr Copperthwaite lost out on an award last year, he believes the idea of sinking ships is gaining momentum.

"They have sunk ships in Australia, all donated by the government," he said.

"There are two in Portugal with a further two in June helped by the local city council.

Image caption,
HMS Scylla was scuttled off Whitsand Bay in Cornwall in 2004

"We have got all the permissions and already lease a one square kilometre section of seabed.

"This £2.1m would cover the costs of buying a ship and cleaning it up ready for sinking straightaway."

He believes an artificial reef could generate millions of pounds to the local economy and attract divers far and wide.

HMS Scylla became Europe's first artificial diving reef when it was scuttled off Whitsand Bay in Cornwall in 2004.

Bids for funding for projects in England need to be submitted by 13 May.

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