14th June 2012
WEST BAY: West Bay lookout plans sunk
INITIAL plans to build a coastwatch lookout station in West Bay have been aborted. The future of the National Coastwatch Institute’s (NCI) coverage of Lyme Bay has taken a knock after the organisation was forced to withdraw its planning application.
The NCI faces a race against time as a deadline to find another site nears.
The organisation needs to move from its temporary base when development at the Burton Bradstock site begins this October.
The district council’s heritage team blocked plans for the lookout on East Pier despite NCI representatives working closely with West Dorset District Council for four months.
The team put the brakes on the plans because of concerns it would impact on the Grade Two listed pier and the fishing resort’s conservation area.
It follows Bridport Town Council’s decision to appose plans for a lookout in March this year.
A question mark hangs over the future of the NCI lookout’s next site– despite it receiving both the Declared Facility Status and the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) in the past two months.
Graeme Gemmill, NCI deputy station manager, said they were making sure the second application was watertight before submitting it.
He said: “Although we have been talking to various people in the district council we had obviously not been talking to enough people because the heritage people would not have allowed us to put anything up on the west pier, so the whole thing was an abortive attempt. We are going to submit another application but we don’t know when because we are still clearing the air with the department at the district council.
“We want to make sure, if going through another application, it’s not going to get tripped up by us not talking to everybody who has a say in the decision because we’ve already wasted about four months trying to get something through which never had a hope.”
He added that they had identified a site in West Bay on top of an ice cream kiosk on the promenade, but negotiations were still ongoing.
Councillor Robert Gould, leader of WDDC, confirmed the planning application was withdrawn in response to concerns raised by planning and conservation officers.
He said: “There were concerns regarding the impact of the proposal on listed buildings and the conservation area in this very important and prominent location.
He added: “We are working with the applicant to try and find an alternative suitable location to enable a revised application to be submitted.”
Since the temporary site opened in May 2010 it has been Declared Facility Status and is officially part of the UK search and rescue service.
It currently has just under 30 fully-trained volunteer watch-keepers who operate the lookout Friday to Monday.
The QAVS accolade is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK and is the equivalent to the MBE for volunteer groups.
PICTURE: Mr Gemmill, NCI deputy station manager, said they would make their second application for a lookout station watertight after being forced to withdraw the first
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