Bid for plans to improve St Mary's Island get warm support

Hundreds of people have backed plans to improve a popular visitor attraction.

Thursday, 8th June 2017, 1:10 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th June 2017, 1:11 pm
An artist impression of how St Mary's Lighthouse could look if funding proposals are approved.

North Tyneside Council launched a Back the Bid campaign as part of its application for £2.1million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to carry out vital work at St Mary’s Island.

More than 600 people from all over the country visited the Lighthouse on June 1 to show their support as the campaign was kicked off.

Young and old attended the Back the Bid event held at St Mary's Lighthouse.

The designs for the lighthouse, which include rebuilding the original optic (light) and new extensions to provide more educational and learning facilities, were on show while activities took place for children.

The proposals include an area to host exhibitions and new retail space, two new viewing areas, updated toilets and the visitor centre area will be modernised while the interpretation/display information will be renewed to enhance the visitor experience.

Kathy, who was visiting from Redcar, said: “I think it’s very productive, what’s going to happen, and I hope they get the funding that they need – it will be great for the kids.

“It’s not just going to be for day visitors but for schools, for clubs, to learn about the environment and what a lighthouse is as there’s not many of them left nowadays.”

Young and old attended the Back the Bid event held at St Mary's Lighthouse.

Emma, from Wallsend, said: “I think it’s really important to hold events like this to get people here and let them know what’s on offer.”

Adam Kelsey, lighthouse manager, said: “The day was a huge success. Hundreds of people turned up to back the bid and it was a major bonus that the sun was shining.

“Holding events like this is a great way to raise awareness of what we’re hoping to achieve, which is safeguarding the future of this important landmark for generations to come.”

Partner organisations, including St Mary’s Seal Watch, British Divers Marine Rescue in the North East, Northumberland Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, took part in the event.

Development funding of £164,300 was awarded by HLF in May 2016 to progress the proposals. Since then a number of surveys have been carried out ahead of the final bid.

The project is a major part of the council’s £36million Seafront Master Plan for Whitley Bay to breathe new life into the stretch of coastline between Cullercoats Bay and St Mary’s Island.

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.

Use #backthebid on Twitter for all the latest news about the project and to show your support.