South West

Life-saving crew stands by for launch of new station

Construction of the new RNLI lifeboat station at The Lizard in Kilcobben Cove, Cornwall is progressing well and nearing completion, on budget, in a project providing a superb new state of the art facility to house the new Tamar class all-weather lifeboat that will be stationed there.

The Lizard Lifeboat Station is in one of the most remote and rugged settings in the whole of Great Britain: it sits at the foot of a 140ft (45 metre) cliff less than a mile from England’s most southerly point.

The previous lifeboat station was built in 1961 at a cost of £90,000 and was demolished to make way for the new facility. This new station is being constructed on a concrete base founded on the rock head, in the biggest build project carried out by the RNLI this year.

The largest space within the new two storey lifeboat station will incorporate a range of facilities including a two storey height boat room to house the lifeboat which will be constantly maintained with the engines and electronic systems ready to launch. The boat room will also incorporate a fuel tank, a winch and a tipping cradle, as well an access platform for the boat crews and a viewing gallery for visiting members of the public.

Other facilities include a lifeboat operations manager’s office, a crew room and changing area, a mechanics workshop, toilets, training rooms, a store room and a generator room.

The building is a timber framed glulam-type insulated structure, curved in form, with external walls in Trespa cladding-covered timber, with skimmed plasterboard internally, timber framed windows and a curved insulated roof covered in sheet copper.

Challenges overcome during the project include the fact that the cliff face to the south of the station was too close to the new extended concrete base of the lifeboat station and had to be knocked away to make room for the new building. The resulting plinth is almost double the width of the old base.

It was also noticed that the cliff face on both sides of the station was unstable, as a small landslide had occurred. A team of contractors had to be employed to secure wire netting all round, from top to bottom, to ensure no loose rock could be dislodged and cause any damage to the station.

Currently the second fix joinery, mechanical and electrical works are underway, together with painting and decorating. A recent trial run of the newly installed equipment proved highly successful.

“The RNLI trains all of its volunteers and staff in-house and the new station will allow this with a lot more ease than previously. We will also have ideal conditions for storing all our kit” said Mr Adam Littlejohn of the RNLI.

Phillip Burgess, RNLI Coxswain at The Lizard, says he and his volunteer crew are delighted: “The project shows the RNLI’s commitment to providing safety cover around The Lizard for many years to come.

“Over 149 years lifeboats have launched on 581 emergency call outs from various stations around The Lizard, and saved 1,140 lives. We cover England’s most southerly point and one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. More than 400 ships a day move up and down the channel and past Lizard Point and it’s important that we maintain key lifeboat stations along this stretch of coastline.”

Completion is expected in October 2011, followed by a one month fit out being undertaken by the RNLI.

Lizard Point has been a navigation marker for seafarers since prehistoric times and is mentioned as early as 250 BC. Countless ships and lives have been lost in its treacherous waters; but in the last 150 years, many have also been saved by successive Lizard lifeboats.

There have been RNLI lifeboats at The Lizard since 1859. From 1867 until 1963 there was also a lifeboat at Cadgwith, a couple of miles east along the coast.

The first lifeboat station was at the most southerly point, Polpeor, and in 1885 another station was built at nearby Church Cove, a mile or so to the east. That station closed in 1899 but the Polpeor station continued right through until 1961. Meanwhile a Cadgwith station was opened in 1867 and remained in action until 1963.

When the current boathouse at Kilcobben opened in 1961, the station became known as The Lizard Cadgwith Lifeboat Station. The name was officially changed in 1987 to its present The Lizard Lifeboat Station.

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