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Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre project

An artist's impression of the new Whitburn Coastal Conservation centre at Souter Lighthouse, showing a small modern building with a living roof.
An artist's impression of the new Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre | © MawsonKerr Architects

We're working alongside over 20 organisations to connect people to the Tyne and Wear coastline. As part of this, visitors to Souter Lighthouse will benefit from a new conservation centre close by, where they can learn even more about the wildlife and heritage of the area. Discover what the centre looks like and follow the project’s development.

Why we needed a new conservation centre

Until recently, the National Trust ranger team at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas and the Whitburn Coastal Conservation Group didn't have an indoor area to host events and activities.

The new Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre will create a place where people can really make the most of their visit to the coast and learn about the nature and heritage here. Many more people will be able to have hands-on experiences and take part in activities than the lighthouse alone can accommodate.

‘The addition of a fresh new visitor space at Souter is an exciting prospect. We want local residents and visitors to enjoy using it; for it to feel like a natural link between the lighthouse and the coastal park – a sort of stepping stone between a historic building and the outdoor environment.’

– Eric Wilton, General Manager, South of Tyne property group

Who’s involved in the project?

The centre will play a key part in delivering the aims of the SeaScapes partnership, supported by the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund. Formed in November 2017, the SeaScapes partnership consists of over 20 organisations including the National Trust, South Tyneside Council, Durham Heritage Coast and Natural England.

The partnership aims to connect people with the stretch of coast between the River Tyne and the River Tees, with 30 projects focusing on heritage, wildlife and improved access.

Special thanks to

Gordon Cooper, who left a generous gift in his will which helped make this centre possible.

A ranger holding a tree sparrow chick at Souter Lighthouse and the Leas, Tyne & Wear.
A ranger with a tree sparrow chick at Souter Lighthouse and the Leas | © National Trust Images/Dougie Holden

The design

Designed by Newcastle-based MawsonKerr Architects, the new centre has been built in Whitburn Coastal Park, not far from the lighthouse. It is a small, energy-efficient building that blends sensitively with the surroundings and has a low carbon footprint. You can view the architect's designs on the PDF below.

Whitburn Coastal Conservation Centre proposed designs [PDF]

The centre will serve as a replacement for the current bird-ringing hut in the main car park at Souter Lighthouse.

Inside the centre

Inside the new building, visitors will see displays, changed over time, e.g. showing the transformation of the North East’s coastline from a heavily polluted industrial area to the healthy landscapes and thriving natural habitats of today.

The centre will also be used to host events and activities and to help raise awareness of marine conservation issues.

Project timeline

June 2020

Approval granted

Plans were approved by South Tyneside Council in June 2020. If work goes to schedule, the building is expected to be completed and ready to welcome visitors in early 2023.  Keep up to date with progress on the project here.

View of the lighthouse, the rock arch and flying birds at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas, Tyne & Wear


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Our partners

Heritage Fund

Inspiring, leading and resourcing the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

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