PERMISSION has been given for National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) to have a permanent station on Minehead sea front.

Since the summer NCI had been using a display trailer as temporary home on the promenade in front of Butlin’s holiday resort.

Now, it can install two purpose-built modular prefabricated units to be used as a headquarters, training centre, and store.

NCI planning agent Simon Booth said the move allowed the charity to provide accessible coastal and water safety information for residents and visitors, many of whom might not know the challenging coastline and the dangers presented by sea, cliffs, sand, and tide.

Somerset Council planning officer Sarah Wilsher said Minehead had been identified as a coastal town urgently requiring an NCI station in response to ‘incident heat maps’ which showed the number of emergencies attended by search and rescue organisations.

Ms Wilsher said when fully operational the station would be manned 365 days a year during daylight hours and occasionally operated at night when requested by the Coastguard to assist with an ongoing search and rescue operation.

She said the station would have four VHF antenna, one in each corner, an anemometer and wind direction indicator, radar, wifi booster aerial, and flag poles.

The Coastwatch station is aimed to improve visual coverage along the coast from Porlock to Hinkley Point, enhancing the response of Milford Haven Coastguard Rescue Co-ordination Centre to any incidents which occur.

Because Minehead beach does not have lifeguards, the Coastwatch team should also improve water safety and can assist Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Coastguards, and other emergency services.

Ms Wilsher said the modular units which be used would provide a site for volunteer watchkeepers to ‘watch’ beaches, coastal paths, inshore waters, and harbours by using optical instruments and vessel finding software, CCTV cameras and eyesight.

Any potential or ongoing incidents would be reported directly to Coastguard Maritime Rescue Co-ordination centres and appropriate action taken in respect of search and rescue operations.

The height of the units and its large windows would allow watchkeepers a good view of the coastline and water from the seafront.

NCI already has nearly 60 stations operating around Britain manned by more than 2,600 volunteer watchkeepers.

Minehead’s RNLI is mainly a reactive search and rescue organisation, while NCI is proactive in passively watching the coastline and reporting potential and ongoing incidents.

Coastwatch stations are self-funded and run by volunteer watchkeepers, fund-raisers, and helpers, and volunteers do not need to have any maritime or uniform service experience because they will be fully trained by NCI.

Anybody who wants to support or join the Minehead watchkeepers can find out more information on the NCI website here or by emailing [email protected].