Coastwatch station set to expand

Set to double in size, the Coastwatch hut in Wells-next-the-Sea PICTURE: Ian Burt

Set to double in size, the Coastwatch hut in Wells-next-the-Sea PICTURE: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

An ‘essential’ Coastwatch station has been given permission to expand, and will soon begin seeking the required £100,000.

The Coastwatch hut above Wells-next-the-Sea beach PICTURE: Ian Burt

The Coastwatch hut above Wells-next-the-Sea beach PICTURE: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

North Norfolk District Council granted planning permission to the Coastwatch station in Wells, with support from the town council and the Holkham Estate.

The expansion will allow volunteers to keep watch, train others, and receive guests at the same time, while currently all three jobs are juggled by the same people.

Deputy station manager John Tookey said: "The place is too small, especially when we actively encourage the public to come in and take a look at what we do. We can only have two or three at a time, which is a big problem when you have school trips coming.

"It can interfere when the station is too full, so the extra space will be great, allowing us to keep a better watch."

Station maintenance is done by its 62 volunteers, funded entirely by donations. The Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm has already donated £30,000 to the extension, as its support vessels moor in Wells and pass the station every day.

Mr Tookey said: "The wind farm has been really good, and we're grateful. They said they like having our help, because a person's head in the water can look like a seal.

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"Sometimes they help with rescues, if they are nearby, since the entrance to the quay can flow very fast when the tide comes in. We often get vessels to help with rescues, which saves the expense of a lifeboat callout."

Supporting the planning application, a skipper from Wells said: "Last summer Coastwatch alerted me to an inflatable with two holidaymakers on board, drifting out to sea on a fast ebb.

"With the help of Coastwatch I was able to bring them on to my boat and land them on the beach, quickly removing them from danger without the expense of an RNLI call out. I have seen many similar examples where Coastwatch's intervention has been swift and helpful.

"Their constant watch is a great comfort to me and to others using the harbour."

Watchkeeper Andrew Kimber said: "Our current station is a bit of a cubicle, and the new plans would more than double our size. We have monthly meetings, and at the moment, we have to hire somewhere, travel there, and pay them for the pleasure. With a new meeting room, we can save money."

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