Campaign to restore St Mary’s Island seeks public support

An artist impression of how St Mary's Lighthouse could look if funding proposals are approved.
An artist impression of how St Mary's Lighthouse could look if funding proposals are approved.

A campaign is calling on residents to help back a bid to safeguard an iconic building’s future.

North Tyneside Council and its partners are bidding to secure £2.1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to carry out vital repairs to the Grade II-list St Mary’s Lighthouse and former keeper’s cottages.

An artist impression of how St Mary's Lighthouse could look if funding proposals are approved.

An artist impression of how St Mary's Lighthouse could look if funding proposals are approved.

Development funding of £164,300 was awarded by HLF in May 2016 to progress the proposals ahead of the final bid being submitted by August.

To mark the campaign launch, a special back the bid event is being held at the lighthouse on Thursday, June 1, where visitors can take a closer look at the plans and leave messages to show their support.

The designs and new computer-generated images showing how the building could look in future are available to view on www.northtyneside.gov.uk and council’s Facebook page, while residents can also get behind the campaign using #backthebid on social media.

Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “We are close to submitting our final bid for funding that will allow us to carry out vital repairs to the lighthouse and keeper’s cottage so that future generations can enjoy these fantastic facilities.

“We are absolutely committed to safeguarding the future of these iconic buildings, which also provide a really important educational resource.

“We want to be able to show the HLF that we have the full support of local people and visitors to the lighthouse and that’s why we have launched the ‘back the bid’ campaign.

“I would urge anyone interested in the future of this important landmark to come along to the event to take a look at the latest version of the designs as they evolve and back the bid to preserve the lighthouse for years to come.”

The back the bid event will take place from noon to 4.30pm and free parking will be available in the lighthouse car park during this time.

Various activities for children will also be held and visitors will be able to climb the steps to the top of the lighthouse tower and take in the breathtaking views for free.

There will also be an opportunity to find out about volunteering opportunities during the capital works.

Partner organisations, including St Mary’s Seal Watch, the Association of Lighthouse Keepers, Northumbrian Wildlife Trust and the St Mary’s Island Wetland conservation group, have all been invited to attend the event.

The lighthouse restoration project is a major part of the council’s £36m Seafront Master Plan for Whitley Bay.

The proposals, drawn up in partnership with appointed designers Beaumont Brown Architects, include restoring the lighthouse tower and former keeper’s cottages as well as rebuilding the original optic (light) to create a fascinating new feature for visitors to enjoy.

New extensions will be built to provide more educational and learning facilities as well as an area to host exhibitions and new retail space.

There will also be two new viewing areas, updated toilets and the visitor centre area will be modernised while the interpretation/display information will be renewed.

As part of the development, a full environmental assessment will be carried out in which the potential effect on wildlife will be a key consideration.

All appropriate controls will also be in place and the proposals will be subject to consultation as part of the planning process.

An activity plan featuring various educational and heritage themed events will also run alongside – and following the completion of – the capital works, including celebrations to mark the 120th anniversary of the lighthouse.