Inside Souter Lighthouse's new Coastal Conservation Centre as it opens to the public
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Landmark Souter Lighthouse has a new neighbour with the launch of its Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre.
Seven years in the making, the centre officially opened its doors today, Thursday, January 11, on land in front of the National Trust site carpark.
With its floor to ceiling windows offering vistas of the North Sea, the new centre is a space where community groups and visitors can learn more about the wildlife, landscape and history of the coast.
Open daily from 9am to 5pm, it plays a key role in delivering the aims of the SeaScapes Partnership which is supported by the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund. The building was funded by a combination of the National Lottery Heritage Fund via the SeaScapes project and the National Trust, partly through their Neptune Coastline Campaign Fund.
Funding was also provided thanks to the generosity of Gordon Cooper who, after just one visit to Souter Lighthouse and despite living miles away in Lancashire, left a gift in his will which helped to fund the new centre.
At a ceremony to launch the centre, the ribbon was cut by Gordon's partner, Janet Faulkner.
Jenny Swainston, SeaScapes Delivery Manager, said: "I'm so glad to be here and see the building come to life for what will be a wonderful hub for the community." As well as being a Conservation Centre, the centre is an accessible multi-use space.
There’s room for exhibitions and interpretation about the North East coast and marine conservation issues, as well as scope to deliver new events and activities at Souter Lighthouse and use by community groups.
It also has its own Bird Ringing Lab.
Designed by Newcastle based Mawson Kerr Architects, Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre is a single-story building intended to blend sensitively with the coastal landscape.
Its eco-friendly features include recycled plastic tile cladding, sustainable and sturdy cross laminated timber panels (layers of wood glued together perpendicular to each other), and thick insulation to maximise energy efficiency.
As part of the investment, a Changing Places accessible toilet was installed near the cafe at Souter Lighthouse in partnership with South Tyneside Council, featuring an adjustable changing bench and a hoist.
Other new additions include The Story Bench, on land in front of the Coastal Conservation Centre.
Facing the sea and carved with scenes inspired by themes from real conversations, it’s a place designed to encourage visitors to pause, reflect on and share stories of their love of the coast and perhaps discuss how they feel about climate change.