Latest stage of plans for Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre near Souter Lighthouse submitted to planning chiefs

Proposals for ‘service works’ to pave the way for a coastal conservation centre in South Tyneside have been submitted to council planning chiefs.

South Tyneside Council’s planning department recently received an application for land near the Souter Lighthouse.

This is linked to plans from the National Trust to provide a conservation hub at Whitburn Coastal Park, providing a gateway to the coast and showcasing the area’s cultural and natural heritage.

Once completed, the centre will offer a range of facilities including an interactive coastal activity zone, bird observation area and multi-use learning space, as well as public toilet facilities.

An artist's impression of what the planned Coastal Conservation Centre could look like.

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It would also provide a base for coastal wildlife groups while allowing the expansion of outdoor events and activities at the Souter Lighthouse and The Leas.

Plans for the Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre were approved by South Tyneside Council’s planning department in June, 2020.

At the time, it was suggested an existing septic tank supplying Souter Lighthouse would be used for the new project, with infrastructure upgraded in future.

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Plans for the new attraction have been in development since at least 2019

New plans from the National Trust, submitted in September, are seeking permission to provide services to the coastal conservation centre and to upgrade service provision to the Souter Lighthouse complex.

This includes a new underground sewage pumping chamber for the Souter Lighthouse complex and proposed coastal conservation centre, as well as new electric and data supplies for the centre itself.

A design and access statement submitted with the plans provides more details on the development, including “trenching works”.

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The supporting document adds: “The Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre is to commence construction shortly and the upgrading of the service provision in the locality has now been brought forward.

The new site is set to provide a base for coastal wildlife groups, while also allowing the expansion of outdoor events and activities at the Souter Lighthouse and The Leas.

“This application therefore seeks to upgrade the services by replacing the existing septic tank with a new below ground foul waste pumping chamber, alongside the associated drainage connections to discharge foul waste from the new proposal and existing lighthouse complex into the public sewer.

“This comprises a new stretch of private foul sewer and a short stretch of new surface water sewer to connect to existing provision. Additionally, there is new electric and data supply.”

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The supporting document also references an ‘options appraisal’ which found that “connecting to the public sewer was a better long-term solution than upgrading the on-site treatment, both in terms of environmental risks, carbon impact, and life cycle costs”.

The latest plans submitted to South Tyneside Council for consideration include measures to manage sewage at the site.

Three “data ducts’ are proposed to be installed between the Souter Lighthouse complex and the new conservation centre.

According to planning documents, this will “provide network connectivity for the centre and the communications for a lone working alarm system, as well as providing flexibility for any future requirements”.

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The design and access statement adds: “The scale and extent of the proposal has been kept to a minimum, carefully balancing the needs and expectations of visitors with the need to conserve and enhance the natural and historic environment.

“It is considered entirely consistent with national and local policy and the proposal will continue to support the visitor experience of the site and surrounding area.”

For more information, visit South Tyneside Council’s online planning portal and search reference: ST/0595/22/FUL