Lighthouse To Lose Its Stripes

The striking red and white striped colours of a landmark lighthouse will be left to die out because of the cost of repainting it.

Trinity House, which oversees navigational aids around parts of Britain's coastline, said the Beachy Head lighthouse was no longer needed as a daymark, the reason for its eye-catching appearance.

Its light is still set to shine to guide passing mariners, providing a range of eight nautical miles across the English Channel.

But its distinctive red and white banded colours will be left to fade out because of the approximate £45,000 cost of repainting it.

A campaign to meet the cost to preserve the appearance has now been launched, led by the local MP.

The 43m-high tower has sat more than 500ft below the summit of the infamous chalk cliffs of Beachy Head near Eastbourne, East Sussex, since being brought into service in 1902.

Designed under the direction of Sir Thomas Matthews, the then engineer-in-chief of Trinity House, it is made of 3,660 tonnes of fine Cornish granite.

It was automated and de-manned in June 1983 and is monitored remotely 24 hours a day by Trinity House's operations and planning centre at Harwich, Essex.

Trinity House defended the decision not to repaint the lighthouse, saying it had a duty to ensure all its expenditure was justified.

It said in a statement: ``The 2010 aids to navigation review and resulting user consultation process conducted by Trinity House discovered that Beachy Head lighthouse was no longer required to act as a daymark, the reason for its red and white striped appearance.

``However, Beachy Head continues to provide a vital service to mariners and we still consider it necessary to keep the light operational.

``Unfortunately, as a 'user pays' organisation, we cannot justify the expenditure on maintaining the current red and white appearance.''

The move by Trinity House not to repaint the banded colours has prompted Eastbourne Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd to start a fund-raising campaign.

He said he was ``disappointed'' at the ``scruffy'' appearance and wanted to see it restored and preserved.

The deterioration of the tower was brought to his attention by a tour boat operator who runs trips around the area's coastline.

Mr Lloyd said: ``I have been disappointed that such an iconic feature of Beachy Head is beginning to look scruffy and tatty.

``I'm continuing to pressurise Trinity House to take responsibility for what is one of the most wonderful features along the south coast.

``I have spoken to officials who have said that they don't have the funds to repaint it but they need to explore ways in which that is made possible.''

Trinity House, the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales and the Channel Islands, is responsible for aids to navigation such as lighthouses, buoys and radio-navigation signals.

It is funded by commercial vessels who pay a levy called Light Dues when they call into a UK port, and the money is used to fund aids to navigation.

Reviews are held every few years to assess whether Trinity House is providing the service needed for mariners, and the decision not to paint the lighthouse followed such a review.