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New coastwatch unit approved at Brancaster Beach by West Norfolk Council

A new coastwatch facility has been greenlit in a bid to allow the “busiest station” in Norfolk to prevent further tragedies.

The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) at Brancaster has been granted planning permission to construct a permanent watchkeepers’ modular unit on its site at Royal West Norfolk Golf Club.

When highlighting the importance of the station, the organisation made reference to the death of five-year-old Jake Parker at Brancaster Beach in 2000. He was swept away while paddling with family members.

The new NCI unit will be built to provide further protection at Brancaster Beach
The new NCI unit will be built to provide further protection at Brancaster Beach

The new unit will include equipment such as VHF receiver aerials, two CCTV cameras, a small receiver module for WiFi and phones, a Davis weather station and wind turbine.

Plans were given the seal of approval by West Norfolk Council last week, with the condition that construction work starts within three years.

Since the Brancaster station opened in April 2022, its volunteer watchkeepers have dealt with 22 incidents and intervened in “numerous more”, according to a planning report.

It says this has resulted in a “dramatic drop in coastguard and RNLI call-outs” and has made Brancaster Beach “a much safer environment to engage in water based activities, whether from the beach or on the sea”.

NCI Brancaster has 27 watchkeepers operating two watches per day, 365 days of the year, and is said to be “by far the busiest station in Norfolk”.

The current facilities are up against the landward side of the sea wall, but are said to be “showing their age”.

The planning report said: “The retreating tide encourages walkers and bathers to walk out onto the exposed sands following the retreating tide.

“There is also the attraction of the wreck that sits at Scolt Head at the western end of Scolt Island.

“The danger is posed by the number of channels that can quickly fill on the incoming tide, potentially cutting off the unwary. This resulted in the death of a child a few years ago as remembered by a memorial at the entrance to the beach.

“The importance of the station has been underlined by the numerous letters of support that have been received from local organisations, local dignitaries and individuals.

“When people get into trouble, the NCI watchkeepers are there to alert HM Coastguard and direct the appropriate rescue services to the casualty.”

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