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Historic lighthouse set to be axed

PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 May 2010

Orford Ness Lighthouse

Orford Ness Lighthouse

Archant

AN ICONIC lighthouse that has guarded the Suffolk coast for centuries could be shut within the next five years, it has emerged.

Trinity House, which is responsible for the country’s lighthouses, has recommended the historic Grade II listed building at Orford Ness be “discontinued” subject to further local consultation.

It has been discussing options for the lighthouse for many months and has already warned that the property could fall victim to the North Sea and be swept away.

In its Aids to Navigation Review published on Wednesday Trinity House recommends decommissioning Orford Ness lighthouse subject to more consultation.

However Southwold lighthouse - which was only itself saved from closure last year - will have its range extended in a bid to compensate for the loss.

Trinity House has already said that because of the sensitive nature of the Orford Ness coastline that sea defences may not be appropriate to protect the lighthouse.

As a result it has been looking at alternatives - which include moving the existing lighthouse further inland or letting it fall into the sea.

Last night a spokesman for Trinity House said the lighthouse would be closed between now and 2015 but options were still being discussed as to whether the property will be protected.

It is thought it would cost nearly £5m to save the lighthouse and experts predict it could fall into the sea within five years or may have to be demolished before then.

Martin Atkinson, National Trust property manager for the Suffolk Coast, on the Greater Lighthouse Authority review of Aids to Navigation, said: “We are acutely aware of the sensitive environmental, historical and economic issues surrounding the future of Orford Ness lighthouse.

“Our approach to the built environment in our care on the Ness has been to let nature take its course and we feel this is the appropriate course of action with regard to the lighthouse.

“If offered Orford Ness lighthouse by Trinity House, we would accept ownership of it on the basis that we would take the same approach, allowing it to fall into the sea, provided it has been fully decommissioned and any dangerous elements disposed of.”

However he said they would be keen to explore saving certain architectural features of the iconic building.

“As sad as it is, we feel that any attempts to defend the lighthouse where it stands would either be unsuccessful, not financially sustainable, or cause unacceptable damage to what is a fragile habitat of international importance,” he added.

When Trinity House first announced its plans for Orford Ness they was greeted with dismay by the local community which is keen to protect the historic lighthouse.

David Andren, chairman of the Alde and Ore Association, said they would still be meeting with representatives from Trinity House on June 8 to discuss the way forward.

“People are very upset that we could lose the lighthouse,” he said. “It would be devastating. GPS navigational systems are not reliable enough.”

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