Bid to plug Cromer gap in Coastwatch network

A bid to plug an important gap by providing vigilant eyes and ears along a busy stretch of the north Norfolk coast is gathering support.

Cromer lifeboat crew, fishermen and the town council have all welcomed moves to open a National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) volunteer lookout post in the town.

The move would help turn the tide of service losses, the latest being the Yarmouth coastguard station which is earmarked for closure

Now those behind the Cromer plan are crossing their fingers that North Norfolk District Council will allow the base to be sited on the clifftop Runton Road car park.

Richard May, chairman of Coastwatch Mundesley, said a Cromer station would fill a hole, providing a final link in a chain of existing volunteer-run posts along the north Norfolk coast at Wells, Sheringham, Mundesley and Happisburgh.

Trained volunteers would man the lookout 365 days a year, from 8am to 6pm, ready to alert emergency and other authorities to everything from oiled seagulls to possible drownings.

The move has been backed by Tony Webster, chairman of Cromer Lifeboat, who said four permanent coastguards, based on the town's east cliff, had been scrapped several years ago and the coastguard station at Yarmouth was now set to be axed as part of government cutbacks.

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'Any extra pairs of eyes on the coast are a plus. Full marks to them for this plan,' said Mr Webster.

Master mariner Mr May, 66, from Sidestrand, launched Coastwatch Mundesley in 1995, based in the cliff-top Mundesley Maritime Museum.

He plans to run Cromer in tandem

?The National Coastwatch Institution was set up in 1994 following the deaths of two fishermen off the Cornish coast below a recently-closed coastguard lookout.

Local people decided to restore a visual watch and today the voluntary organisation operates 44 stations manned by 2,000 volunteers.

Richard May set up Coastwatch Mundesley in 1995 and for 10 hours a day, 365 days a year, volunteers watch over 180 square miles of sea, beach, shoreline, cliff top and promenade from their post on the first floor of Mundesley Maritime Museum. In 2009 the service was given the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

Coastwatch Mundesley holds 'declared facility status', meeting HM Coastguard's standards of competence, and is a reporting coast station for Lloyd's Marine Intelligence Unit.

?Incidents with which volunteers at Coastwatch Mundesley have been involved include: missing children, the body of a Polish trawlerman washed up on the beach, an aircraft in difficulty, an injured person on the beach, a vessel adrift, a youth on the beach with a loaded gun, youngsters drifting out to sea on an airbed, a bomb stuck on groynes causing nearby houses to be evacuated, missing elderly people, a man overboard from a passing ferry, a 14-inch live mine on the beach, a pile of clothing and picnic remains abandoned on the beach, an overturned yacht, and oiled seabirds.

A live five-inch cartridge on the beach, jellyfish stings, a cat stuck on a cliff ledge, a vessel on fire, vandal damaged to vehicles in a car park, beach huts and buildings, an injured and dangerous fox on the beach, lost property, stray dogs, yachts with an inexperienced crew and running short of fuel, swimmers too far offshore, a vessel discharging oil, youngsters stranded on a sandbank with an incoming tide, jetskiers too near swimmers, a horse and ride casualty on the beach, loss of North Sea gas industry kit, an unmanned barge aground, missing and suicidal people, drums of chemicals on the beach, a surf-boarder in difficulty, dead seals with phocine distemper virus - and they have saved a muntjac deer from drowning.