Time-lapse film to be made of dismantling of coastal landmark

The Lighthouse at Orfordness Picture: SIMON PARKER

The Lighthouse at Orfordness Picture: SIMON PARKER - Credit: Archant

Council chiefs say they have not ordered the demolition of one of Suffolk’s best-known landmarks – despite the owners’ claims to the contrary.

The foundations of Orfordness Lighthouse have exposed due to erosion Picture: STEVE TAYLOR

The foundations of Orfordness Lighthouse have exposed due to erosion Picture: STEVE TAYLOR - Credit: Archant

East Suffolk Council said while erosion had made Orfordness Lighthouse a potentially dangerous structure, it was not in immediate danger and there were no safety risks to the public.

A spokesman for East Suffolk Council said: "Following a site inspection last month, our Building Control team advised the Orfordness Lighthouse Company that the structure was in a dangerous condition due to exposed foundations on the entrance porch and a void between the base of these foundations and the ground. In order to remove this danger, the owners were advised to demolish the entrance porch and secure the access into the main lighthouse building.

"Officers advised that the main lighthouse was a potentially dangerous structure and consideration should be given to its long-term future.

"However, officers did not feel the main lighthouse was in immediate danger and due to its remote location, it was not felt there were any safety risks to the public. Therefore, the council has not issued a notice for its demolition.

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"The decision to demolish the lighthouse at this time has been taken solely by the owners and is not being ordered by East Suffolk Council.

"It is sad to see such a historic feature disappear from our coastline however it is not unexpected. Our Building Control team will continue to liaise with the owners to ensure appropriate action is taken."

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The Orfordness Lighthouse Trust revealed last month that the iconic lighthouse on the shingle spit would be demolished after rapid erosion saw part of the plinth on which it stood taken by the waves.

They had been warning that one fierce storm could fell the 18th century building - which is visible as far away as Old Felixstowe - while trying to raise cash for more defences to protect it.

Demolition is now expected to start within weeks after the latest damage left it potentially unstable.

The trust said on its Facebook page that there have been months of negotiations, not only to find a suitable demolition company that could work to its modest budget, but also to find a way forward with 10 separate statutory and other bodies who all have an interest in the outcome of Orfordness Lighthouse's fate and her immediate, highly protected environment.

The trust said claimed that East Suffolk Council "determined that Orfordness Lighthouse is now unsafe and ordered that it be taken down".

It continued: "We have long known this day would come. In 2009 Trinity House determined (after a number of studies) that, for a raft of technical and regulatory reasons, their much loved lighthouse could not be maintained where she was nor could she be moved. They chose to decommission the lighthouse in June 2013, estimating that the building would survive only a short while before it succumbed to the sea.

"This was the context in which Orfordness Lighthouse Trust took responsibility for the lighthouse.

"As a Trust we committed to defend Orfordness Lighthouse where it stood for as long as possible, and if possible to preserve the artefacts after that. We are proud that, through the application of the 'shingle sausage' defences, we kept the lighthouse standing for years longer than anyone envisaged.

"We have enabled thousands of visitors, local and not so local, to visit the lighthouse and learn about this iconic feature of the Suffolk Coast. Orfordness Lighthouse has been used as a location for concerts, music videos, student films, television documentaries and even a few proposals of marriage. We have had great fun sharing the building and the history of the lighthouse with you and we know it has brought interest and a lot of joy to many people."

No more visits will be permitted to the lighthouse.

Agreement has been reached with Anglian Demolition, from Attleborough, to carry out the demolition work in a way which enables the trust to preserve the key artefacts.

The trust said: "In the lull between storms Ciara and Dennis plant was brought to site to make preparations to dismantle the building, demolishing the undermined oil-store and place the debris temporarily in front of the lighthouse to protect it from storm Dennis.

"They also managed a temporary repair of the track down from Aldeburgh and prepare the beach to provide a stable platform for the crane from RJ Cranes that will take down the Lantern Room from the top of the Lighthouse and then begin to take apart the rest of the building.

"We don't have exact dates for the demolition to begin as everything is weather dependent but the intention is it will be in the next few weeks."

There are plans for the demolition company to make a time-lapse film of the process.

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