Chance to take the first look at plans for new RNLI boathouse in Wells

PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 November 2017

Wells lifeboat and shed.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Wells lifeboat and shed. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

A £2m lifeboat needs a state-of-the-art station and next week people in Wells will be able to see, for the first time, what that will look like when plans for the new RNLI Wells boathouse are revealed to the community.

An aerial view of Wells lifeboat station. Picture: John Fielding An aerial view of Wells lifeboat station. Picture: John Fielding

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has submitted its planning application to North Norfolk District Council for a new lifeboat station in Wells to house the Shannon class lifeboat. This is the RNLI’s latest class of lifeboat which will replace the current Mersey that is approaching the end of her operational life expectancy after 24 years.

As the Shannon is larger than the all-weather Mersey class it will need to be housed in a bigger station. But as well as providing more space for the lifeboats and transporters, there will be improved crew facilities with showers, a drying room and an area for training and meetings.

It will replace the existing building at the end of Beach Road and will be built near the slipway.

RNLI area lifesaving manager Daniel Cooper said: “The existing boathouse is more than 100 years old and, although it has been modified several times and maintained to a high standard by the RNLI, the allocation of the new Shannon lifeboat has presented an opportunity to build a new boathouse that will improve facilities for all of our volunteer lifesavers.

Wells lifeboat at the end of the summer season, dated 4th September 1978. Photo: Archant Library Wells lifeboat at the end of the summer season, dated 4th September 1978. Photo: Archant Library

“Wells lifeboat station plays an important part in the local community and, with the new boathouse, visitors will be able to learn more about life at the RNLI and the Wells operation.

“It will also ensure that the next generation of lifesavers are equipped to deliver a safe and robust lifesaving operation over the next 100 years.”

The public have always been encouraged to visit the station and now they will have easier access and the advantage of a more interactive experience with improved viewing areas, safety information, reports of service launches and a souvenir shop.

Lifeboat operations manager Chris Hardy said: “We’re very excited about the plans for the new station, although naturally we’ll be sad to say goodbye to the old boathouse which has a long and distinguished history and has served us well in providing a base for saving lives at sea.”

The Shannon class lifeboat. Picture: RNLI/Nigel Millard. The Shannon class lifeboat. Picture: RNLI/Nigel Millard.

Members of the public are invited to view the plans and meet RNLI representatives at Wells Sailing Club from 3pm until 7pm on Tuesday, December 5.

A new era for the RNLI in Wells

Once planning permission has been granted for the new lifeboat station and the contractors have been appointed, it is hoped that the build will be completed within 18 months.

It has not yet been decided what will happen to the old boathouse when the new one is complete. The RNLI will have no further use for it but will work with the landowners and the planning department at NNDC to find the best solution.

Supporters of Wells RNLI have raised more than £250,000 in a public appeal over 18 months for their new lifeboat.

The total cost of the lifeboat, launch and recovery equipment, and the boathouse, will be circa £5.5 million which will be raised through corporate donations, legacies and the generosity of the public.

The Shannon uses water jet engines instead of propellers – which makes her more manoeuvrable and agile in difficult seas.

She can be launched and recovered from the beach using specially designed equipment.

As with other all-weather lifeboats she will be self-righting in the event of capsize and will be able to cope with the roughest of conditions.

She also incorporates the very latest computer technology – which improves safety for the volunteer crews.

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