Author: Roselyne Crowther
The RNLI has today (10 January) received planning permission from the Borough of Poole allowing the charity to build a facility at its Poole HQ in Dorset to bring all-weather lifeboat production in-house.
This secures the future of all-weather lifeboat production and maintenance for the lifesaving charity.
An All-weather Lifeboat Centre, to be built on land already owned by the RNLI, will save millions of pounds each year, as well as create 90 new jobs in Poole.
The project is estimated to cost £11.2 million but, once up and running will save the charity £3.7 million every year. Taking into account the timeline towards full production and maintenance, the centre is expected to pay for itself in less than 10 years.
RNLI Chief Executive Paul Boissier says: ‘We need to make the best use of all donations we receive, so once we saw the benefits of bringing the work in-house, and as there are fewer and fewer boat builders able to work to our very specific requirements, we knew we had to go ahead – even in the current economic climate. We’ll be our own customer and so have a “guaranteed order book” – planning for our lifeboat requirements means we’ll need to build six new all-weather lifeboats annually for the next 20 years.
‘Over the last few years we’ve focused on improving our efficiency and so have secured £6.2 million of savings for this project, but we need to fundraise for the remaining £5 million. We must succeed because being unsure of our future lifeboat supply is not an option. We need tight control of production over the long-term, and we have a duty to guarantee the quality of our lifeboats – lifeboats that our volunteer crews rely on every time they launch to save others.’
Councillor Philip Eades, Chairman of the Planning Committee, Borough of Poole says: ‘The Committee is aware that Officers have worked closely with the RNLI to ensure the best outcome for Poole. The RNLI has amended the proposals to improve the initial application and to override any concerns.
‘I am pleased that the Planning Committee was able to give this development their unanimous support. The proposal will create significant new jobs, demonstrate a commitment to a quality building and a continued investment in Poole creating a modern boat building facility and a right of way through their site linking Asda with Whittles Way.’
The RNLI successfully produces inshore lifeboats at the charity’s Inshore Lifeboat Centre on the Isle of Wight; this operation will continue. Additionally the RNLI already designs its own all-weather lifeboats; produces the hulls in-house; and successfully operates an all-weather lifeboat maintenance centre at RNLI HQ. This project is a logical next step for the charity.
Mr Boissier continues:
‘Our vision is to develop a British centre of engineering excellence in Poole. Built on land we already own, the new centre will revolutionise our lifeboat construction and maintenance programme, bringing every stage of the production process under one roof. This will ensure we are fully equipped to build the new generation of 25 knot lifeboats allowing our crews to continue to save lives for many years to come.
‘We have extended our apprenticeships scheme from four to six per year to help ensure a bank of skilled people for the new jobs that will be generated in Poole, and so we’ll be helping to keep boatbuilding and manufacturing skills alive in the British workforce for many years to come.’
The next stage of the project will see the old buildings cleared from the site, the sea wall rebuilt and the site raised to comply with flood defence requirements; then, once a building contractor is appointed by the RNLI, construction work at the Holes Bay site can start. The current lifeboat maintenance operation has moved to Cobbs Quay, across the water at Holes Bay, where the RNLI will be renting space temporarily until the new facility is up and running.
The All-weather Lifeboat Centre will see its first phase of operations, including all-weather lifeboat refit and overhaul, beginning by Spring 2014; and all-weather lifeboat hull and deck moulding moving across from RNLI SAR Composites in Lymington by 2019. The RNLI will offer jobs at the new Poole facility to those working at the Lymington site.
Notes to editors
Shannon class all-weather lifeboats will be the first class of all-weather lifeboat to be built at the facility.
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Artist’s impression of the proposed All-weather Lifeboat Centre:
Top centre: Holes Bay and the RNLI College, to the right of this the double-sided building with curved joining roof is the proposed facility building; right fade-away: Asda; left: RNLI HQ offices and Lifeboat Support Centre.