North Sea Observatory
The construction of a new iconic building has started on site. The building (on the seafront at Chapel Point, Chapel St Leonards) will have fantastic uninterrupted views of the dunes, beach and North Sea.
Progress Update January 2017
Works started on site in December 2015. The remains of the original sea defences (buried deep on the site in 1953) and the discovery of Second World War smoke bombs delayed the construction of the foundations. But the good news is that the foundations have been completed and the building is due to be open to the public in June 2017.
Background to the Project
The primary function of the Observatory is to:-
- facilitate observations, understanding and appreciation of the North Sea and the marine environment
- create an iconic focal point and visitor hub to engage visitors and local residents in socio-economic activities
- make available an ‘off season’ attraction extending the short summer tourist season into the spring, autumn and early winter
- provide access and educational opportunities for all
Lincolnshire County Council initially worked with architects Surface+Light+Space from Newcastle and now Kier in Lincoln to develop this exciting project. The building had to accommodate an important number of factors:-
- the building needs to provide a panoramic vision along the coast
- indoor and outdoor observation decks
- it needs have space for education and interpretation facilities
- a Café and toilets
- a lookout for the Coastwatch organisation
- and a gallery for exhibiting work from local/national artists and craftspeople, art and craft workshops and a programme of artists in residence
The North Sea Observatory building has been designed and manufactured to a very high environmental specification. See below for the architect’s impression of the building.
Arts Council England, have part funded the gallery element of the project. Several local galleries (The National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford, The Collection and The Sam Scorer Galleries, both in Lincoln) are working together to produce a calendar of events and exhibitions.
The origins of the project started back in 2005. Lincolnshire County Council began the delivery of the Bathing Beauties® arts led coastal regeneration project. Due to its success and encouraged by the Arts Council a second phase was developed with the title of Structures on the Edge (SOTE).
SOTE brought together two fundamental aspects of 21st century culture in the UK - the arts and the coast. The scheme provided a number of semi-remote Lincolnshire coastal locations for artists and architects to realise permanent installations and interventions.
The SOTE project included the proposal to build an iconic new multi-purpose building right on the seafront. The building would be the centrepiece of the SOTE project and would also act as a coastal observatory for the Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park (LCCP).
The LCCP is an initiative led by Lincolnshire County Council. It covers the area between Sandilands and Chapel St Leonards and already contains wildlife-rich areas including five established nature reserves managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
The aim of the LCCP is to provide high quality facilities for visitors and better protection for wildlife, by creating enhanced, extensive and interconnected nature reserves and wildlife areas. This will be at the heart of a venue to attract visitors and residents in every season and provide the area with accessible, natural green space for people to enjoy.
A major part of this project is the development of the new Coastal Observatory. The proposed North Sea Observatory at Chapel Point, Chapel St Leonards, provides a unique opportunity on the Lincolnshire coast, with easy access for people of all abilities, to learn about and experience our important marine environment.
Few people know about, or have witnessed the passage of the thousands of birds from all around the world (Greenland, Iceland, Arctic, Siberia, North and South America etc) that migrate along the Lincolnshire coastline in spring, autumn and early winter. The Observatory will be something unique to Lincolnshire as there are no purpose designed marine observatories anywhere else in the United Kingdom.
Chapel St Leonards Parish Council own the land where the Coastal Observatory is being built and have leased the land to Lincolnshire County Council.
Councillor Colin Davie, Executive Member for Economic Development at Lincolnshire County Council said:
”This will be something unique to Lincolnshire as there are no purpose-designed marine observatories anywhere else in the UK. The observatory will be the perfect spot for people to enjoy the spectacular Lincolnshire coastline and its beautiful wildlife. There will lots of info on local nature and plenty for the kids to do. We’ll also have a small café and art space. Hopefully, this will attract even more visitors to the area, boosting the local economy.”
Chapel St. Leonards Parish Council Chairman, Councillor Patrick Naughton, added:
”The parish council is really excited about this development. We feel that the building will enhance the area, extend the summer season and bring more visitors into our village. We are conscious though that Chapel Point is a naturally beautiful area and that any development must be in keeping with that. Having seen the design, we think that the architects have got it right.”
The final plans for the buildings were shown to the public at Chapel St Leonards in July 2013. Planning permission for the Coastal Observatory was granted at the end of 2014 and works started on site early in 2016. The building will be funded by Lincolnshire County Council, Arts Council England and the Coastal Communities Fund.