Plans look to secure a bright future for landmark

An artist's impression of how St Mary's Island could look after the improvements.
An artist's impression of how St Mary's Island could look after the improvements.

Multi-million pound plans have been drawn up to give an iconic landmark a bright future.

Final preparations are being made to a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for money to improve St Mary’s Island and Lighthouse in Whitley Bay.

I’d like to urge everyone who can to go along, see the plans and support us to secure this funding

Mayor Norma Redfearn

North Tyneside Council is hoping to secure £2.5m for the scheme – which would start in late 2017 – and are putting the plans on display.

The work will see structural repairs, new visitor facilities and the return of the original lighthouse optic.

The plans will be on display at Whitley Bay Customer Service Centre from July 8 to July 15, then at St Mary’s Lighthouse from July 16 to July 22.

Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “We’ve consulted widely on this already and developed some very exciting plans for St Mary’s Lighthouse and Island which would significantly enhance what is already a hugely popular visitor destination.

“I’d like to urge everyone who can to go along, see the plans and support us to secure this funding.”

The proposals include a new single storey extension on the sea-facing side of the Lighthouse to provide improved toilet facilities, a lift, and community and school education space. The roof of the extension would provide an outside terrace.

The Lighthouse Tower would receive structural repairs while the original optic would be reinstalled in the base of the Lighthouse.

The Keeper’s Cottage – now the visitor centre – would also receive a complete overhaul including the repair and replacement of windows, external doors and guttering.

Suspended ceilings would be stripped back to reveal the original features of plaster and lath and all areas would be redecorated and remodelled to improve the visitor experience.

To complement the works, a new activity programme would also be drawn up, and North Tyneside Council is seeking public ideas about what could be included as part of the consultation.

Causeway repairs have also been included in the plans, although funding for the £450,000 works is still to be secured.

St Mary’s Lighthouse, which was built in 1898, protected shipping from the hazardous north east coastline until it was decommissioned in 1984.

Since then the Lighthouse and former Lighthouse Keeper’s cottages have been operated as a visitor centre by North Tyneside Council, and the site is extremely popular all year round, particularly with families and school groups.

In 1992, St Mary’s Island was declared a Local Nature Reserve, and the area is well-used by seals as a resting spot.

In 2009 it became licensed as a wedding venue, and hundreds of couples have married there.

Other attractions on the island include climbing the 137 steps to the top of the Lighthouse, which offers spectacular views of the north east coast, or viewing the historical exhibits.

The plans for St Mary’s Island and Lighthouse are part of North Tyneside Council’s £36m Seafront Master Plan, to improve the coast from St Mary’s down to Cullercoats Bay.

The St Mary’s Lighthouse and Island proposals are completely separate from proposals for a visitor centre at St Mary’s Headland by a private developer.