St Mary's Lighthouse's Â£2.1m overhaul gets green light - with no viewing platforms
St Mary's Lighthouse is set for a Â£2.1million refurbishment, but visitors won't get viewing platforms to see the seals after objections.
A revised plan for the landmark was unanimously approved by councillors at North Tyneside Council on Tuesday, despite some concerns about the length of the causeway.
Last year, plans to refurbish the lighthouse and build an open-air viewing platform were refused over concerns about their effect on seals and birdlife.
The lighthouse will be fully refurbished and toilets and facilities for school trips will also be improved as part of the approved plans.
Councillors said it was important that the tourist attraction was improved to make the most of the coastal area.
The deputy chairman of the planning committee said: “It’s important that we protect and invest in our heritage assets and St Mary’s is such an important asset to North Tyneside.”
The proposed works are a major part of a £36million Seafront Master Plan for Whitley Bay to breathe new life into the stretch of coastline between Cullercoats Bay and St Mary’s Island.
However, the council will now need to re-apply for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for the £2.1million refurbishment.
Patrick Melia, the council’s chief executive, said: “We are pleased that this vital scheme to safeguard the future of the lighthouse and surrounding area has been successful. It is one of the final key parts in our improvements along the coast.
“The lighthouse has played an important role in the education of children and as a popular visitor attraction and events space over the years and these plans will only enhance this.
“We now look forward to working with the Heritage Lottery Fund on our bid for funding to allow us to carry out the work which will have a number of benefits for residents and visitors alike.”
St Mary’s Lighthouse is an important haul-out site for seals, when they come ashore to rest, moult and digest food.
The area is therefore popular with wildlife lovers keen to catch a glimpse of the animals, however the council and wildlife groups have urged people to be sensitive to wildlife and avoid disturbing the seals.
There is a specific area at the back of the lighthouse which is ideal for viewing seals from a safe distance.
By Laura Hill, Local Democracy Reporting Service