New plans approved for Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre and Souter Lighthouse site

Proposals for ‘service works’ to make a planned coastal conservation centre a reality have been given the green light.

An application for land near the Souter Lighthouse complex has been approved by South Tyneside Council.

The plans from the National Trust are linked to a planned conservation hub at Whitburn Coastal Park, which aims to provide a local gateway to the coast and to showcase the area’s cultural and natural heritage.

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The facility, which was granted planning permission in 2020, is expected to include public toilets, an interactive coastal activity zone, bird observation area and multi-use learning space, as well as providing a base for wildlife groups and events.

Coastal Conservation Centre plan artist impressions Picture: National Trust/MawsonKerr.

It was previously indicated that service provision would be taken from the existing septic tank supplying Souter Lighthouse and that services for the lighthouse would be upgraded in future.

New plans from the National Trust, submitted in late-2022, sought permission to provide services to the Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre and to upgrade service provision to the Souter Lighthouse complex.

This included a new underground sewage pumping chamber serving both sites, as well as new electric and data supplies for the coastal conservation centre.

After considering the planning application and assessing it against planning policies, South Tyneside Council’s planning department approved it on January 20, 2023.

A decision report prepared by council planners said the works would be “predominantly underground and set sufficiently inland from the coast”.

Council planners added the proposals would not result in the loss of open space within Whitburn Coastal Park and that water from the conservation centre and lighthouse complex would be discharged into the public sewer.

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Although Northumbrian Water raised no objections to the proposals, it was noted that the council needs to contact the water company directly to make a sewer connection application.

On the ecological impacts of the service works, council planners stressed that mitigation measures would reduce the impacts on local habitats and wildlife.

The council decision report added: “The council’s countryside officer has advised that the detailed measures are considered to be appropriate and sufficient to avoid and mitigate the adverse ecological impacts of the proposed scheme and to ensure habitats are re-established post works”.

A design and access statement from the National Trust previously outlined the aim of the scheme, which includes “carefully balancing the needs and expectations of visitors with the need to conserve and enhance the natural and historic environment”.

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It also referenced 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”.

In terms of data connections, three “data ducts’ are proposed to be installed between the Souter Lighthouse complex and the new conservation centre.

According to supporting planning documents, these 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”.

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