Observatory will be ‘jewel in the crown’

Conceptual images of the North Sea Observatory, designed by Surface+Light+Space architects.
Conceptual images of the North Sea Observatory, designed by Surface+Light+Space architects.

Conceptual images of a new observatory, hoped to be the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Lincolnshire coastline, have been publicised for the first time.

Lincolnshire County Council’s North Sea Observatory has been designed to reflect the surroundings of Chapel Point, taking inspiration from the beach huts and sea defences nearby.

Introducing his plans at Chapel St Leonards Primary School last week, project architect Stuart Palmer said he was ‘looking to create a building as a piece of sculpture’.

“We love the sea defences,” he said. “It shouts out that it’s like a plinth waiting for a piece of sculpture to sit on it.”

Mr Palmer also said the visual ‘rhythm and repetition’ of the rows of beach huts had been replicated in the observatory’s modular composition.

To avoid disrupting the low-lying landscape, its inward facing aspect has been kept shallow but then follows a rising ‘natural sweep’ towards the sea, offering expansive coastal views.

Coun Colin Davie believes the design is modern, attractive and will be the ‘jewel in the crown’ for the coastline.

“I think this is a great site,” he said. “I’ve known it all my life. It’s a hugely important part of the coast and it’s important that the development here fits in with what we are trying to achieve with the whole coastline.”

If approved, the building will feature a cafe, art gallery, toilets, internal and external observation decks and a look out for Coastwatch.

As the focal point for the council’s emerging Coastal Country Park, Coun Davie feels it will help extend the season by appealing to the emerging green tourism markets interested in the rich variety of coastal wildlife .

“We need to prove that the coastline has a life and has a future and that we can deliver that future,” he said.

“For me, this is a really ambitious project, it’s a project that belongs to the people that live here and belongs to the people who visit here - now and in generations to come,” he added.

The majority of those at the meeting seemed to welcome the plans, although there were several voices of opposition.

“I’ve known Chapel Point for 90 years and I can’t see this monstrosity improving anything,” said one critic.

Raymond Pettitt, writing after the meeting, felt the development was ‘totally out of scale and character with surrounding area’ and accused the county council of trying to spoil the natural beauty of Chapel Point.

Concerns raised previously about whether any costs would be incurred on the parish council were also allayed by infrastructure development officer Peter Fender.

“There will be no cost in terms of the parish council, they will also be able to take some income out of the car park and from renting the cafe,” he said.

Coun Davie also insisted the council’s budget would not exceed the £600,000 allocated to it in response to overspending concerns raised by one woman present.

Project leaders are keen to create a ‘sustainable and accessible’ building by outlining a number of potential energy saving, green technologies for the development ranging from ground source heating through to solar panels.

Zinc has been chosen as the material for the building’s cladding as a long lasting noncorrosive material which is energy efficient to manufacture.

The application is expected to be submitted in October and, if approved, could see the project completed sometime next summer.