County to have unique coastal observatory

A £1.75m government investment from the Coastal Communities Fund will help create the UK’s first purpose-built marine observatory at Chapel St Leonards, as well as replace Gibraltar Point’s flood-damaged visitor centre.

The visitor centre and North Sea Observatory are expected to support more than 50 local jobs. It is also hoped they will extend the traditional tourist season, helping to attract more people to the area and boost its economy.

Cllr Colin Davie, executive councillor for economic development and tourism at Lincolnshire County Council, says: “Lincolnshire’s coastline is stunning at any time of year but, traditionally, the majority of visitors come in the summer. These projects will change that – making it possible to easily enjoy our coast’s internationally renowned habitats at any time of year.

“That represents an incredible boost for the area’s economy. In fact, we expect this to result in more visitors, more trade, more jobs and even more acclaim. Our successful bid for government money clearly endorses this huge potential.”

The centres will provide top facilities and educational information, designed to help visitors enjoy the North Sea environment, as well as understand the impact of rising sea levels. Both will be designed to withstand flooding.

The visitor centre at Gibraltar Point will replace the one damaged during December 2013’s storm surge. The site will house a café and visitor information. Work will begin in June and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Cllr Davie said: “The new visitor centre has been designed to take advantage of the stunning views on the site, with expansive windows facing the dunes and sea, as well as a rooftop viewing deck.”

The North Sea Observatory at Chapel St Leonards will be at the gateway to the new Coastal Country Park and will include a coastal observatory, art space supported by Arts Council England, café and public toilets. Work is expected to begin this October and be finished by October 2016.

“This will be something unique to Lincolnshire as there are no purpose-designed marine observatories anywhere else in the UK,” said Cllr Davie.

Together, the two sites form the county council’s Lincolnshire Coastal Observatories Project, which is designed to “unlock the potential” of these currently underused seaside locations.

The project is costing a total of £2.688m. In addition to the £1.75m from the Coastal Communities Fund, £688,000 is coming from Lincolnshire County Council, £150,000 from Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and £100,000 from Arts Council England.

Both visitor centres will be owned by Lincolnshire County Council, with the one at Gibraltar Point run by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.