Hundreds of visitors enjoyed the sunshine and family fun at St Mary’s Island as the ‘back the bid’ campaign got off to a successful start.
Free activities for children were on offer at the lighthouse to mark the launch of the new campaign.
The ‘back the bid’ initiative is aimed at raising awareness of North Tyneside Council’s plans to repair and restore the iconic Grade II listed lighthouse and former keeper’s cottages.
An application for £2.1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to carry out the vital work is due to be submitted in August before a decision on whether the bid has been successful is expected later this year.
More than 600 people from all over the country turned out to show their support for the project on Thursday (1 June) and to take advantage of the summer sun and free activities.
The designs for the lighthouse, which include rebuilding the original optic (light) and new extensions to provide more educational and learning facilities, were also on show.
Kathy, who was visiting from Redcar, said: “I think it’s very productive, what’s going to happen, and I hope they get the funding that they need – it will be great for the kids.
“It’s not just going to be for day visitors but for schools, for clubs, to learn about the environment and what a lighthouse is as there’s not many of them left nowadays. It would be a shame if it’s just left to be derelict.”
Emma, from Wallsend, said: “I think it’s really important to hold events like this to get people here and let them know what’s on offer. Now we’re coming into the summer you can see what’s going on all along the coast.”
Doug, Ryan and Pauline, from Sunderland, added: “We love it here, the rock pooling and activities – we’re backing the bid!”
Adam Kelsey, lighthouse manager, said: “The day was a huge success. Hundreds of people turned up to back the bid and it was a major bonus that the sun was shining.
“Holding events like this is a great way to raise awareness of what we’re hoping to achieve, which is safeguarding the future of this important landmark for generations to come.”
Partner organisations, including St Mary’s Seal Watch, British Divers Marine Rescue in the North East, Northumbria Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, also took part in the event
Development funding of £164,300 was awarded by HLF (thanks to National Lottery players) in May 2016 to progress the proposals.
Since then a number of surveys have been carried out in preparation for the final funding bid being submitted.
The project is a major part of the council’s £36m Seafront Master Plan for Whitley Bay to breathe new life into the stretch of coastline between Cullercoats Bay and St Mary’s Island.
The proposals have been drawn up in partnership with appointed designers Beaumont Brown Architects.
They include an area to host exhibitions and new retail space, two new viewing areas, updated toilets and the visitor centre area will be modernised while the interpretation/display information will be renewed to enhance the visitor experience.
As part of the development, a full environmental assessment will be carried out in which the potential effect on wildlife will be a key consideration. All appropriate controls will also be in place and the proposals will be subject to consultation as part of the planning process.
An activity plan featuring various educational and heritage themed events will also run alongside – and following the completion of – the capital works, including celebrations to mark the 120th anniversary of the lighthouse.
Use #backthebid on Twitter for all the latest news about the project and to show your support.