A NORTH Yorkshire town council’s cabinet has backed a bid to establish England’s first commercial “seaweed hatchery” in the waters off the town’s coast.

Scarborough Borough Council will act as an accountable body for a £472,150 grant from the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) to SeaGrown Limited.

The Scarborough-based company has licensed a 25-hectare site three miles off the town’s coast, which is clear of shipping and otherwise unused, in which to grow and harvest seaweed on sunken platforms.

A network of buoys and chains will be anchored there, and the plants grown on submerged lines.

By 2021 the project aims to introduce UK (Scarborough) farmed seaweed into new markets such as bioplastics, biotextiles and pharmaceutical products.

At its cabinet meeting last week, the authority’s four-person committee backed the scheme.

Cllr Liz Colling (Labour), the council’s cabinet member for economy, communities and commercial said: “This is a good news story for a new business in our harbour.”

Council leader, Cllr Steve Siddons (Lab) added it was “good news for the Scarborough borough”.

Due to the size and the age of the company the council was required to agree to act to distribute the grant from the CCF to SeaGrown.

SeaGrown is hoping to create nine direct jobs in the first two years of the project rising to 23 direct jobs within five years, plus many more indirect jobs anticipated within the seaweed supply chain.

The farmed product will be transferred to Scarborough Harbour and then, it is hoped, to a new facility in the Eastfield Business Park when the operation is up and running.

The global market for seaweed was estimated to be worth around $12bn in 2015 and by 2024 it is

predicted to have grown to in excess of $87bn, down to the increase in the numbers vegetarians and vegans and new uses being found for the plant.

The company was founded by Wave Crookes, a former Scarborough fisherman, and his partner, Laura Robinson, a marine scientist.

Mr Crookes told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that it had been hoped the first seaweed

lines would have been in the water by now but due to a delay in getting the council’s support due

to the local elections it was likely the first lines would now be set in August.