July 22 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, March 15, 2014
The National Trust has denied claims it obstructed attempts to prolong the life of a Suffolk landmark and rescue artefacts within.
Orfordness lighthouse owner, Nicholas Gold, insists his plan to bolster the building with sandbags and allow its contents to be preserved was obstructed by the National Trust on grounds that it would be unsuccessful or harm habitat, but that the charity had withdrawn opposition.
Temporary defences are now in place at the beachhead - which was hit by recent storms - and Mr Gold believes a 140ft roll of bags filled with shingle and gravel can further delay the demise of the lighthouse.
The building, which stands on the National Trust-owned Orford Ness was decommissioned in June last year to allow it to fall into the sea.
Mr Gold, who bought the landmark from Trinity House for £2,000 in September, wanted more time for it to be dismantled following removal of optics and other items of historical significance. He set up the Orfordness Lighthouse Company (OLC) in September to represent local interest in the future of the listed landmark. He said: “The National Trust had been trying to obstruct our attempt to stabilise the beach edge in order for the fixtures and fittings to be removed. They said it would have a massive impact on the coastline, but their forecasts were based on comparisons to enormous sea defences with great big groynes and boulders.
“The storms did enormous damage and we lost 10 metres because of obstruction by the National Trust.”
Ben Cowell, the National Trust’s regional director, said it did not oppose the defences now in place and that it had been assured of their removal if erosion is seen to have accelerated elsewhere. He added: “The National Trust does not, and has never, held the authority for granting or denying any application to defend the coastline in front of the lighthouse. We have never owned the lighthouse, which was sold to the OLC in September 2013. There was nothing to stop the OLC from submitting an application to defend the lighthouse in September, but that did not happen until February.”
Mr Cowell said the trust was working with previous owners Trinity House on plans to remove artefacts from the lighthouse, and that it was keen to continue working with Mr Gold, who is planning to open the site to visitors from April. He hopes some artefacts will be donated to the local museum, with the main optic held temporarily by Trinity House.
“We now have a bit of time to work on how to get the key features out. In the meantime, we want to allow people to visit the building.”