Plans to transform a former diving site into a research facility for underwater living are one step closer to reality.
Ocean technology and exploration firm DEEP is investing more than £100million in the former National Diving and Activity Centre in Tidenham in the Forest of Dean.
The company hopes to be able to create a “permanent human presence” at depths of more than 650ft from 2027.
Currently, scientists or deep sea workers can only reach such depths for a maximum of a few hours at a time.
But DEEP says it will use innovative technology to allow scientists to operate at similar depth for extended periods of time – maybe even a month.
The firm's plan is to use Day House Quarry to test out equipment like submersibles.
Forest of Dean District Council has now granted planning permission for portacabins to be set up at the site to be used as workspaces, for medical reasons and wellbeing.
DEEP says the temporary structures will allow activity to start at the ex-diving centre as the plans for the permanent scheme proceed through the planning process.
DEEP president Steve Etherton said the project will ultimately help scientists preserve the world's oceans.
He said: “We need to preserve the oceans. To do that we need to understand them.
“The oceans sit at the centre of many of the generational challenges the world is facing, and they also offer opportunities we have not even begun to comprehend.
“They are the source of at least every other breath we take. They influence the weather. They influence the climate. They influence us. Yet, this life-sustaining ecosystem remains surprisingly unknown."
District councillors and staff recently visited DEEP and viewed the plans and the work carried out so far.
Economy cabinet member Jonathan Lane said: “It is extremely exciting for all concerned and it’s been great getting to meet the team behind the project and find out more.
“The benefits that DEEP will have for schools, universities and businesses across the Forest of Dean, the South West and beyond, is incredible and we look forward to working with DEEP and local organisations to develop that relationship further.”
The site at Dayhouse Quarry will also have deep water rescue training take place for those in the emergency services, with DEEP working with partners in those areas to ensure that staff have the skills and knowledge required to perform rescues at incredible depths.
Credit: Carmelo Garcia, Local Democracy Reporting Service