For some time there have been rumours and suggestions about the fate of a lifeboat station in Weston. Now a real step has been taken along this long and, at times challenging, road.
The lifeboat has been active in Weston since 1882. For most of that time there was a lifeboat station on Birnbeck Island. The only island connected to the mainland by a pier. Birnbeck provided the best place in Weston Bay to house and launch a lifeboat. Access to deep water and shelter from the weather made it the perfect site for our ancestors to choose.
During its long history Weston RNLI saved many lives and performed many heroic rescues. However the pier connecting the Island began to deteriorate. It was closed to the public in 1990 but the lifeboat crew continued to use a wooden walkway laid upon the metal of the pier. In 2013 this was inspected and found to be so rotten that the walkway was only held together with a few nails. Thus the crew and their lifeboats had to be brought off the island very quickly. A temporary station was established at Knightstone Plaza consisting of two metal containers. Since then the crew have continued to carry out their role of saving lives at sea and are the most successful station on the Somerset coast. Indeed in 2015 they saved more lives than any other coastal station in the UK and Ireland.
The RNLI has investigated 14 sites in Weston Bay but none have been suitable. The local fundraisers have worked tirelessly and so far have collected £750,000 towards the cost of a new station. Now a supporter of the local RNLI has offered his restaurant site, closed for nearly a year, as a potential location. Today we can announce that there has been an exchange of contracts between Heath Hardy and the RNLI. He has sold the lease he has of the Cove Restaurant site with North Somerset Council to the RNLI. There still needs to be extensive environmental studies and architectural plans so we will not know for a year if we can use the site as a permanent station. However in the meantime the local RNLI can use it to help cope with their current cramped conditions.
Don Sutherland, chairman Weston RNLI Lifeboat Management Group said: ’I wish to pay homage to the outstanding fortitude shown by our lifeboat crews in the 15 years I have been involved. Despite the conditions they have had to work under, they have displayed exceptional service to the town and its visitors.
Peter Elmont, chairman of the Weston RNLI fundraisers said: ‘We are extremely grateful for the people of Weston who have given generously to raise the £750,000 so far.
Mike Buckland Lifeboat Operations manager at Weston station said: ‘to The building will give us significant training and meeting facilities where we can now get all our crew into one room at the same time, something we have been missing for the last five years
Heath Hardy, the previous owner of the Cove Restaurant said: ‘I am delighted. This gives me to chance to support the local lifeboat while allowing me to concentrate on my other businesses, the Cove Café at Anchor Head and Cove West on the promenade, the place for casual English dining. All of my staff have relocated to these other venues.’
RNLI notes to editors
The main picture shows Heath Hardy and his partner Gemma handing over the keys to the RNLI. From left to right, Peter Elmont, Dona Sutherland, Heath Hardy, Gemma, Mike Buckland