The Challenge

The Baltic Wharf TQ9+Acorn Proposals open_in_new will result in a large number of expensive riverside houses, and a boatyard that is reduced to one third its size, and of very questionable long term viability.

District Councillors John Birch and John McKay along with Totnes Town Councillor Georgina Allen believe that this is not what the town of Totnes, the District or the Region, wants or needs, and serious consideration should be given to an alternative future for this site that builds on the current unique facilities at Baltic Wharf to create a Centre of Marine Excellence and Skill that would continue the town’s long association with the sea, and create the potential for 100’s of highly skilled and well paid jobs for the area.

On 7 Nov 2022 Totnes Town Council voted to support our proposals.

We have launched a campaign to secure this alternative future for the Baltic Wharf boatyard and invite you to join us by having your say link . Please add your voice to the campaign.

There are many reasons why the Baltic Wharf boatyard, and the site as a whole, has enormous potential. These are just some:

  • The changing nature and growth of the marine sector in the South West;
  • The opportunities arising from the Celtic Sea Floating Offshore Wind initiatives;
  • The proximity to South Devon College at Noss Marina (8 miles down river);
  • The Freeport developments likely at South Yard and Langage;
  • The proximity to the facilities of Totnes (a 0.5 mile walk away);
  • Sufficiently removed from the town to limit possible nuisance from industrial activity;
  • The existing large undercover facilities;
  • Good road access for the deliver of large vessels and structures (pontoons etc);
  • Deep (3.6+m MHWS) water navigation to the Quay with a 60m LOA turning bay;
  • Established range of maritime businesses;
  • Spacious site allowing maneuverability, large craneage and outside storage.

Taken together, these advantages represent an opportunity to create something of real long-term value for the town, and the district as a whole.

These suggestions are inline with the detail of the planning policies in the Joint Local Plan open_in_new (JLP), as well as its clear ambitions, intentions and spirit.

Aside from the direct economic benefits to the district through the delivery of a centre providing highly skilled and well paid employment, it will also contribute to the well-being of the town and its many vistors. A thriving and working boatyard is always a source of spectacle. Steamer Quay and the Longmarsh pubic space, on the other side of the river, are currently greatly enhanced by the continuous drama that is a working boatyard. It is an important public asset that is part of the definition and character of the town and people’s enjoyment of it.

The Way Forward

The Baltic Wharf site is currently owned by TQ9 Ltd, who are working with Acorn, a housing developer, to build up to 175 houses on the site. At a meeting with them in October'22, Cllr John Birch and Cllr John McKay presented the alternative proposals, but these were rejected.

The Baltic Wharf boatyard is now under threat, and a planning application could be lodged in the near future by Acorn.

This therefore means that to take advantage of the huge potential of Baltic Wharf as a Marine Centre, any planning application that is brought forward by TQ9+Acorn needs to be rejected, and the many Planning Issues link make this a real possibility. Baltic Wharf can then be acquired and a company set up to develop it into a thriving asset for the town and the whole district.

Please support us and 'have your say' ...

Baltic Wharf c2020

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The Marine Economy

It is the coming together of many factors that creates the opportunity to make Baltic Wharf in Totnes a centre of excellence and skill for the marine sector. The potential is enormous and could bring 100’s of skilled and well-paid jobs to the town of Totnes and the South Hams and thereby continuing the town’s long association with the marine industries sector and the marine environment.

The Ocean Economy

There are many exciting developments in the marine sector at the moment being driven by the need to move to a more sustainable future.

  • Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) is a technology that allows wind turbines to be deployed in deep water and at reduced cost and disturbance to the sea-bed. It is attracting huge investment around the world, and here in the South West there will be opportunities arising from the Celtic Sea FLOW programe. There is described in detail in [the REGEN report]( )

  • Electric Power Units are increasingly being used to power vessels of all sizes. These can use batteries as an energy source or fuel-cells that consume hydrogen. There is a growing business opportunity in converting vessels to use electric motors as well as the maintenance and servicing.

  • Autonomous Vessels are starting to become a reality in much the same way that driverless cars are. The South West is an important centre for research and testing of the technology. The Smart Sound project in Plymouth Sound is an example of the work being done.

  • Short Sea Shipping is just the use of coastal and connecting navigable river routes for freight. There is increasing interest in reviving coastal shipping using electrified vessels as it is by far the most energy efficient form of transport. Some of these vessels would be autonomous.

The Global Ocean Economy

The OECD Global Ocean Economy 2030 report predicts that the ocean economy will reach US$3 trillion by 2030 (more than 2.7% of global GDP), with growth driven by global trade and marine resource extraction. Offshore wind is predicted to be one of the biggest areas of growth (contributing 8% of ocean economy GVA by 2030) and is also one in which the South West has real potential to exploit.

The UK Ocean Economy

The Foresight report estimates that the Ocean Economy currently contributes around £47 billion GVA to the UK economy and employs more than 500,000 people, and addresses the importance of emerging global markets, which offer significant opportunity for both established marine industries, and new technologies that can be applied in a marine context. Of particular relevance for the UK’s South Coast cluster are:

  • offshore renewable energy,
  • high-tech marine products and services,
  • marine leisure, manufacturing and decarbonisation
The South West Economy

The in depth analysis undertaken by Wavehill on behalf of the Marine South West cluster estimated the sub sectoral GVA contribution of businesses in the cluster geography to the UK wide total, as a proxy of the market share (although it is difficult to account for industry activity that is undertaken in a region, when larger companies have multiple sites and are registered in one place (often London)).

The primary sub sectoral markets for the technologies identified and their share of UK wide total GVA are:

  • Marine manufacturing - 20%
  • Marine Transport - 15%
  • Port activity - 8%
  • Offshore renewables - 7.5%
  • Marine environmental technologies - 7.3%

The marine sector punches well above its weight in GVA terms so its growth can make a significant contribution to local productivity, which across Devon as a whole is well below the national average. The average job in the Marine industry generates £65,000 in GVA, significantly above the UK-wide level of £50,800, while sub sectors such as Offshore Renewable Energy are even more productive with GVA per job of £72,200.

It is anticipated that “there will be more work than all our SW ports can deal with” to support the growth in ORE sub-sector. The Regen study for Heart of the South LEP [ref 10] looks at the opportunity from Floating Wind for Devon and Somerset. While Appledore in North Devon is suitable for larger design and construction projects, there is a clear opportunity for smaller sites like Baltic Wharf, to work in partnership and on smaller projects.

A Marine Sector Economics link report has been commissioned by South Hams District Council to assess the current and future potential of the marine sector across the district, with particular reference to Baltic Wharf and its importance, and provides an assessment of:

  • The size of the current market and its likely growth;
  • The particular areas of current growth;
  • Projected areas of growth;
  • The range of facilities available in the area;
  • Gaps in those facilities;

The Opportunity

View of the essential travel-hoist avenue
A boat being worked on
Boats packed together
Boat packed together outside
Circulation avenue between rows of boats
Circulation avenue between rows of boats
Boats outside showing packing density
Inside southern long shed
Inside southern shed, and good use of space
Boat being worked on in southern shed
Boats close together outside southern shed
Rows of boats packed together
Little space between some boats
Mast store in northen shed, and travel hoist parked
View of boats in northern shed
View of boats in northern shed
Northern shed full of boats
Boatyard looking south
Boatyard looking south
Northern shed to right, workshops to left
Proposed space left for boatyard
This will be knocked down for houses
This will be knocked down for houses
Boatyard looking north
Boatyard looking north

The Location

Baltic Wharf is at the southerly end of Totnes at the head of the navigable and beautiful River Dart. Its location has many advantages, just some of which are:

  • Well buoyed channel from Dartmouth to Totnes for vessels up to 60m LOA and draft up to 3.5m MHWS;
  • Long sheltered quay frontage with turning bay for vessels up to 60m LOA;
  • Good straight road access for large loads (not available anywhere else on the Dart);
  • Proximity to railway station and easy access to Devon Expressway, both of which provide good connections to the urban centres of Plymouth and Exeter, and the proposed Freeport sites;
  • Proximity to Totnes town centre and all its facilities, but on the edge of the town and removed from residential properties, allowing industrial activity without causing nuisance. To the north of the town is the thriving Babbage business estate, which enjoys similar advantages;
  • Just 8 miles from South Devon College Marine Academy;
  • Next to existing marine technology company Valeport;
  • Visible from the Longmarsh public space across the river providing a continuous source of interest and spectacle for residents and visitors.

Baltic Wharf Activities and Industries

The following is just a preliminary list of potential business, industrial and educational activities that the Baltic Wharf site could support. Many of the opportunities arise from the challenges of climate change and the move to more sustainable vessels and marine operations. Baltic Wharf would make an important contribution to the development of the local green economy.

1. General Service and Repair

As indicated above, the current business tenants provide a range of different repair and maintenance services for different kinds of vessels, including wooden boats. All these businesses have high demand and would be able to expand and flourish given the right environment. There are some gaps in the offering (eg: Marine Electronics, Sail Loft, etc) that if filled would make Baltic Wharf a one-stop-shop.

By providing facilities for the charter market there is an opportunity to eliminate the seasonality of the demand for service and repair. Many charter yachts plan to complete their service programme in late September in preparation for leaving the UK and crossing to the Caribbean for the charter season in October, when the hurricane season is over. The unique facilities of Baltic Wharf are ideally suited to this growing market.

Increasingly modern vessels use integrated onboard systems, that can include the power plant. Maintenance requires diagnostics that requires the vessels to visit a suitably qualified and equipped yard, and not just a visit from an engineer. There exists a business opportunity to provide this form of service.

An increasing fleet of Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) support vessels requiring maintenance and repair represents a real opportunity for the yard.

There is a shortage of large scale repair facilities:

  • Much of the local fishing fleet needs to go to Falmouth for repairs with all the attendant fuel costs and the consequential fossil fuel environmental costs.
  • The Premier Noss Marina provides some repair facilities, but they are limited and expect vessels to be ashore for limited periods. The business focus is providing secure berthing facilities. The same is true of the other yards on the Dart and along the coast.
2. Boat Building

The yard has a boat builder, but there is huge potential to enhance this activity given the undercover facilities, the skill mix of the businesses at the yard and its launch facilities that could be improved for larger vessels.

The growth in Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) will require a huge number of offshore work-boats. Full life-cycle support; build followed by maintenance and repair followed by recycling (see below). The opportunity to work with the Harland and Wolff yard in Appledore, North Devon.

3. Clean Marine

The electrification of commercial and leisure vessels is gathering momentum. As well as new vessels there is an increasing market for the retrofitting of electric motors, batteries and supporting systems into existing craft. There already are electric trawlers working from Brixham.

Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Ship open_in_new 's are becoming more common.

These developments represent an enormous opportunity for businesses based at Baltic Wharf.

4. Celtic Sea – Floating Offshore Wind

The Crown Estate (who manage the seabed around the UK) have published a prospectus which states that 3GW of floating wind in the Celtic Sea by 2030 (4GW by 2035) could create at least 1,500 primary jobs, 9,600 broader jobs and £900m of economic benefit.

There is huge potential for the Baltic Wharf site to contribute to this project in a variety of ways, including manufacture, maintenance and end-of-life management. See the Regen -FLOW report for Heart of the South West LEP open_in_new study.

5. Marine Composite Recycling

There is increasing concern over how to deal with vessels and other structures (eg wind turbine blades) that have reached the end of their useful life and have been constructed using composite materials. Many end up abandoned or deliberately sunk. These objects are not inert, unlike a wooden or steel vessel, and leak damaging contaminates into the environment as they degrade. This is not an issue confined to the marine sector (many road vehicles use composites, aerospace, etc).

For the marine sector alone, the issue is not trivial with an expected 2% of the current fleet expected to reach end of life in any one year.

There is therefore an opportunity for the site to utilise its ability to receive vessels and to dismantle and render the composite material ready for recycling. The use of the river, as per the next section, would mean limited road traffic. A corollary would be a range of equipment available for second-use.

6. Short Sea Shipping

Short sea shipping is the use of tidal waterways and coastal seaways to transport goods. The proximity of Baltic Wharf to main transport infrastructure, like Devon Expressway and the main-line railway opens the possibility for it to become a hub. Sea-freight is by far the most efficient delivery method and with the arrival of Zero Emissions Cargo Ship open_in_news, short sea shipping becomes increasingly important.

By way of a very simple example: a 60m x 10m lighter/barge will have a loading capacity of about 1,500 tonnes. If this is delivered on an ebb tide to Dartmouth the energy/fuel consumption would be minimal. Assuming a 15 tonne average road delivery weight, this would potentially remove 100 large vehicle movements a day along the A381 and have a significant eCO2 reduction benefit.

There is the potential for Totnes to become a hub connecting to a local Short Sea Shipping network, with Baltic Wharf at its centre. To maximise this potential would need infrastructure investment, but on a smaller scale there is still great scope to develop businesses around this green approach to the delivery of goods. There exists a longer term possibility of connecting Baltic Wharf to the Babbage industrial estate via technologies like Magway open_in_new.

7. Smart Sound - Plymouth

The Smart Sound - Plymouth open_in_new (in Plymouth Sound) is a project that provides a hi-tech digital proving ground for technologies like autonomous systems, environmental sensor technologies, alternative propulsion, advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity. It is coordinated through the Marine Business Technology Centre, and is a partnership of five organizations.

While the environment provides a variety of challenges in terms of depths and sea-condition, the range needed to develop autonomous short sea shipping vessels would be completed by extending in part to the river Dart. This would then become an important opportunity for the Baltic Wharf site, which already has as a neighbour Valeport, an important manufacture of hydrographic sensors.

8. South Devon College (SDC) Maritime Academy

SDC has a wide range of marine related courses and attracts students from across the country and beyond. Part of the course work often includes work experience and a cluster of marine businesses with a range of disciplines would be of enormous benefit to the College, as well as being of equal benefit to the businesses.

9. Power Generation

The sheds have a roof area of about 4,500sq m, half of which (~2,250 sq m) faces SE and is ideal for PV panels and could generate, assuming 150W per sq m, about 330kW of power or, in terms of total energy: 205 MWh per year. This could be used by on-site activities and/or fed to local homes and businesses. According to OFGEN, an average home consumes 2.9MWh, so this could power most of the homes on Baltic Way (~90).


The Freeport, based largely at South Yard in Plymouth and Langage, will include the Langage – Green Hydrogen Project open_in_new which will initially have a modest 10MW capacity, but is expected to scale as demand increases. As part of the plan for the Langage and other Freeport sites there will be engagement with the Celtic Sea – FLOW opportunity [ref 11] which will also provide green energy for hydrogen production, and this will inevitably benefit peripheral sites like Baltic Wharf. The availability of green hydrogen to power vessels using fuel-cell technology will create an opportunity that would work alongside the other Clean Marine ambitions for the industry and which Baltic Wharf has the potential to be part of.

Hotel and Affordable Housing

The town of Totnes has limited visitor accommodation capacity, the Royal Seven Stars being the only hotel, supplemented by some Bed and Breakfasts. A thriving maritime centre at Baltic Wharf would generate demand and would bring benefits to Totnes and the surrounding area and to Baltic Wharf for its visitors and users, possibly including conferencing facilities. This could be part of a more diverse development which may also included some care beds, assisted living and truly affordable/social housing.

Indirect benefits to Totnes

Aside from the direct economic benefits to the district from the delivery of a centre providing highly skilled and well paid employment, it will also contribute to the well-being of the town and to tourism. A thriving and working boatyard and marine centre is always a source of spectacle. Steamer Quay and the Longmarsh public space facility, on the other side of the river, are currently greatly enhanced by the continuous drama that is a working boatyard. It is therefore an important public asset that is part of the definition and character of the town and people’s enjoyment of it.


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