Plans lodged for coastal conservation centre beside the iconic Souter Lighthouse

Plans for a new ‘coastal conservation centre’ near one of South Tyneside’s most iconic landmarks have officially been lodged.

By Chris Binding
Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 11:50 am
Artist impressions of how the proposed ‘coastal conservation centre’ near Souter Lighthouse could look. Picture: National Trust/MawsonKerr.
Artist impressions of how the proposed ‘coastal conservation centre’ near Souter Lighthouse could look. Picture: National Trust/MawsonKerr.

Earlier this year, the National Trust submitted proposals for a new development beside the Grade II listed Souter Lighthouse – the world’s first to be purpose built to use electricity.

The structure was decommissioned in 1988, served as a radio navigation beacon up until 1999 and has since become a popular tourist attraction.

New plans, verified by South Tyneside Council this month, include a purpose-built conservation hub in the Whitburn Coastal Park, near the existing lighthouse car park.

Souter Lightouse

The centre would be owned and managed by the National Trust – in partnership with the Seascapes Partnership – with a focus on marine conservation and community engagement.

If approved, it would house an interactive coastal activity zone, bird observation area, multi-use learning space and accessible public toilets.

The building itself, designed by Newcastle-based MawsonKerr Architects, would boast eco-friendly features from thermally efficient glazing to tiles created from 80% recycled plastics.

Project bosses hope to use the building’s cladding as a learning resource to explore issues around ocean pollution and single use plastics.

Artist impressions of the centre’s entrance space and coastal conservation learning space. Picture: National Trust/MawsonKerr.

Bird ringing, a scientific method of gathering data on bird populations, will also be a key activity at the site.

A design and access statement from the applicant states the plans would improve access for school groups while having a minimum impact on the “openness of the landscape”.

It reads: “The current learning space used by school groups for coastal activities is located on the first floor of the Lighthouse Cottages, there is currently no lift access to the first floor, this restricts the inclusivity of the learning offer.

“The new building would allow inclusive learning opportunities with level access and WC facilities at ground level.”

The National Trust has operated the 1871-built lighthouse for decades and recently won permission from South Tyneside Council to remove a ceiling in the base of its 23 metre tall tower.

This aimed to both improve ventilation, tackle damp and to allow skyward views to the lower lantern room above.

The new coastal conservation centre plans aim to play a key part in delivering the aims of the Seascapes Partnership.

The scheme, supported by the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund, unites more than 20 organisations including the National Trust, South Tyneside Council, Durham Heritage Coast and Natural England.

It aims to connect people with the coast between the Tyne and Tees rivers through dozens of projects focussing on heritage, wildlife and improvements to access.

The conservation centre proposals are currently under council consultation.

Subject to approval, the National Trust hope to finish building works by 2021.

Public comments are open until Friday, January 17 and can be made by writing to the council.

For more information, visit and search planning ref: ST/0856/19/FUL