Petition launched to save lifeboat house from demolition

Existing boathouse which began use with Wells RNLI in 1895

Existing boathouse which began use with Wells RNLI in 1895 - Credit: Submitted

It is one of the oldest standing lifeboat stations in the country - but it could be a little more than six months away from demolition.

A required planning condition with the new Wells lifeboat station has revealed that the town's RNLI current base, and its home since 1895,  must be demolished within six months of its new base being operational.

It is unsure at this time who made this condition.

A spokesman for the RNLI said the boathouse is in poor condition, and the consent given to them to build a new lifeboat station was conditional on the removal of the old boat house.

The new Wells RNLI boathouse

The new Wells RNLI boathouse - Credit: Submitted

The land on Beach Road is owned by Holkham Estate. 

General manager of land and property for Holkham, James Bracey, said: "We have ensured the RNLI have had access to complete their project to build the new lifeboat house - a necessary requirement to house their new, larger rescue boat.

"The work they undertake is a much-valued service for the local area, and the new boat and facilities will ensure they can continue to save lives at sea as effectively as possible.

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"We understand that the removal of the old lifeboat house is a planning condition."

The news has been greeted with backlash, and a group of locals, who do not wish to be named, has gathered widespread support to prevent the destruction via a petition. 

At the time of writing, 1,249 people have back the petition, as the group hopes to save the building. 

The new Wells lifeboat station, currently under construction at the end of Beach Road.

The new Wells lifeboat station, currently under construction at the end of Beach Road, will provide modern facilities including crew and training rooms. - Credit: RNLI/Mark Frary

A spokesman for the group said they found the planning condition after hearing rumours of the building’s fate.

There was no objection to the plan, something which North Norfolk District Council, the planning authority, confirmed.

The petition spokesman added that no challenge was made because the community believed the lifeboat house was safe.

The new Wells Shannon class lifeboat RNLB Duke of Edinburgh 13-46 at the All-weather Lifeboat Centre in Dorset

The new Wells Shannon class lifeboat RNLB Duke of Edinburgh 13-46 at the All-weather Lifeboat Centre in Dorset - Credit: RNLI/Nathan Williams

“There have been a number of families in Wells who are much closer to the legacy of this special building having had family members, some who have become local hero’s through their commitment to the RNLI,” they said.

“More importantly, the community who are no longer with us, and have also said, ‘if they knew what was happening, they would turn in their graves at this very sad news’. 

“The time is ticking and contractors could go in anytime and pull it down, so that's why we've started a petition.

“We lost the miniature railway, and now to take this monumental building will clearly upset a lot of the people within the community of Wells and its visitors.

“We don't want to point fingers, the community wants to keep this historic building and to ensure that it is preserved.”

A new RNLI lifeboat station is slowly taking place in Wells. 

A new RNLI lifeboat station is slowly taking place in Wells. - Credit: Mark Frary

A spokesperson for the RNLI said:  "The existing station has been adapted and added to over the years to meet operational requirements and further adaptation was carefully considered.  

"However, owing to the building’s poor condition, a past significant tidal breach and ongoing concerns over its vulnerability to subsequent such breaches, it is no longer prudent that charitable funds continue to be used for its ongoing upkeep and maintenance.

"The new lifeboat station will also be able to accommodate the new Shannon class lifeboat, which will herald the start of a new chapter of lifesaving."