RNLI to run beach lifeguards

RICHARD BATSON The beaches of North Norfolk look set to get the first RNLI-run lifeguards in the region, starting from April.For the local district council, which has run the service in the past, is poised to sign a five-year deal which would bring major investment into the lifesaving stations.

RICHARD BATSON

The beaches of North Norfolk look set to get the first RNLI-run lifeguards in the region, starting from April.

For the local district council, which has run the service in the past, is poised to sign a five-year deal which would bring major investment into the lifesaving stations.

Back in November the EDP reported that the council was in talks with the RNLI as the lifeboat institution aimed to double the number of lifeguard units it ran over the next five years.

At the moment it patrols 62 beaches in the west country, and has saved 255 lives and helped 47,000 people since it introduced the service in 2001.

Councils meet more than £1.2m of the £5.5m a year cost of employing more than 320 lifeguards. But the RNLI has been keen to add another 60 beaches, due to the growing number of people using the nation's coast for leisure.

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The North Norfolk deal would see them cover the same beaches as the council service - at Cromer, Sheringham, Mundseley and Sea Palling - at a cost of £78,500 for the first year.

The council would need to replace aging lifeguard huts, but the RNLI would add “significant investment” says a report to the cabinet by community director Steve Blatch.

That included an all-terrain vehicle and rescue water craft at Sea Palling and mountain bikes at other locations, along with rescue boards and tubes and improved first aid and responder kits at all the stations.

The RNLI had done an assessment of the district's beaches, looking at the facilities, levels and kinds of use - such as bathing, surfing, and jet-skiing - potential risks, history of incidents, and current lifeguard cover.

It was happy that, linked to their existing well established lifeboat cover along the coast, it could provide a lifeguard service too.

Under the new system there would also be a full-time permanent area lifeguard manager, and a supervisor for 36 weeks of the year, both based at the Cromer inshore lifeboat station, while the neighbouring Henry Blogg lifeboat museum's education room could be used for training and briefing.

Mr Blatch said the current cost of the council-run system was £100,000 a year, and was important to maintaining the Blue Flag and Seaside Award status of its main tourism beaches.

The new RNLI system would “deliver significant benefits to the district and its tourism visitors and better value for money.”

The cabinet, which meets on Monday, February 5, is recommended to agree the RNLI lifeguard service, initially for five years, along with new huts for the RNLI guards.