The RNLI annouces Birnbeck to close

25 November 2013

RNLI announce new chapter in the life of Weston super Mare lifeboat station

After 131 years based on Birnbeck island*, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is leaving the island due to the deteriorating condition of Birnbeck pier and the buildings on the island. The immediate plan will be to establish temporary facilities for an inshore lifeboat in the town.

The decision to move off the island has been taken by the RNLI’s Operations Director, George Rawlinson whose priority is the safety of the charity’s volunteer crew. The predominant worry is the quarter of a mile long pier, which continues to deteriorate, that the crew have to cross to reach the lifeboat station. In a phased withdrawal, the charity is initially planning to operate a second D class inshore lifeboat from Knightstone Harbour, while the existing D class and Atlantic lifeboats based on Birnbeck will, in the short term, only launch from the island if there is a known risk to life which cannot be covered by the boat from Knightstone.

George Rawlinson, RNLI Operations Director;

‘I must stress first and foremost that the RNLI is committed to providing and sustaining a lifesaving service in Weston super Mare. However, problems outside our control have proved difficult to overcome and we have to move off the island. The most prudent option is this phased withdrawal, which will allow us to maintain lifesaving cover while we establish a temporary solution for our local lifeboat team.’

‘I’d like to thank our dedicated team of volunteers at Weston super Mare lifeboat station who are facing the inevitable disruption with goodwill and fortitude. They remain entirely committed to our charity’s aim of saving lives at sea and are working extremely hard to continue the service despite the move we are having to make.’

Colin Williams is the RNLI Regional Operations Manager;

‘We are working now to establish a temporary facility at Knightstone Harbour from which we will operate a second D class inshore lifeboat. This will be able to launch for around three hours each side of high water but our statistics show that this is when the majority of our life-saving rescues happen. In the meantime, the station’s current D and B class Atlantic inshore lifeboats that are still on the island are now on restricted service, which means they will still launch but only if there is a known risk to life.  There is an excellent network of neighbouring lifeboat stations that will also be on standby to provide cover in the Weston super Mare area.’

‘As I have explained, this is a phased withdrawal and the plan is to establish a temporary facility or facilities while we determine the long term solution at Weston super Mare. It is too early to say what the final plan will be but we would ask the local community to bear with us and to continue to support our fundraising appeal that is raising money for a permanent home for the RNLI in the town.’

RNLI notes to editors

•    *In 1882 the first lifeboat based at Weston super Mare was hung from davits erected on Birnbeck Pier. In 1889 a lifeboat house and slipway was erected on the small island at the end of the pier at a cost of £700. Then 1903 a new lifeboat house and slipway was constructed when a larger lifeboat was sent to the station, at a cost of £2,575.  A short history of the Weston super Mare RNLI lifeboat station is attached with this news release.
•    Neighbouring stations to Weston super Mare include Burnham on Sea RNLI lifeboat station to the west and The Bristol and Portishead lifeboat, operated by The Portishead Lifeboat Trust, to the east. There are also RNLI lifeboat stations relatively nearby at Penarth and Barry Dock.
•    The temporary facility for the D class inshore lifeboat at Knightstone Harbour will include a structure for the safe storage of the lifeboat and launching tractor and trailer and for the crew volunteer’s kit.