Plans for cliff-top '˜sanctuary' to cut down on deaths at coastal beauty spot

The man behind the creation of an emergency coastal marker system is aiming to set up a cliff-top volunteer group to cut down on the number of lives being lost in the seaside cliffs.

Incidents at Marsden cliffs have prompted Phil Brown to seek a support group in the area
Incidents at Marsden cliffs have prompted Phil Brown to seek a support group in the area

Phil Brown is hoping to create a 24-hour “community hub” on the cliffs in South Shields - to provide a place of safety and shelter for those who need of a friendly ear and a place they can turn to for support.

Mr Brown thought up the marker post idea 14 years ago to help the emergency service crews called to rescue situations on the cliffs react more effectively.

The markers are numbered from one to 90 and start at The Groyne, near the Little Haven Hotel, ending at the old rifle range in Whitburn.

Mr Brown, a nurse, said: “The marker system has helped the emergency services to reach people more effectively and that’s great, but more needs to be done.

“I go out running at night and I have come across a number of people who have been at the cliff edge, lost in their thoughts and struggling with life.

“If we could have somewhere, where people who are struggling can go and just sit and have a cuppa and a chat, it could help to save lives.”

It was the number of fatalities and incidents along the beauty spot which prompted the creation of the emergency coastal marking system.

Now Mr Brown is hoping to get help from The National Trust and gather together between 90 and 100 volunteers to make his idea turned a reality.

He envisages the building being a coffee shop during the day – with a craft room for youngsters, where they could also learn about the environment and the history of Marsden – and a sanctuary for those needing support and advice at night.

He added: “I know there are signs on the cliffs telling people to phone the Samaritans, but I think now we have to take it one step further.

“I know what having a facility like this entails and the work that is needed to make something like this work.

“The land where I would propose to site the cafe is owned by The National Trust land and I will be looking at engaging with them.

“I have already put in for funding for this scheme and now it is a waiting game.

“Life is hard and is getting harder and I don’t think it is going to change any time soon – but we can make a difference.”

No comment was available from the National Trust.