NCI celebrates five years of keeping our coastline safe

This month marks five years since National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) started operating in Porthcawl after Bridgend County Borough Council handed over the keys to the Old Pilot’s Lookout Tower.

Since opening in May 2016, the crew has expanded to 36 volunteers who keep the station operational seven days a week. To begin with, the station had basic operational equipment of radios, charts, mobile phones and binoculars but is now equipped with modern technology in the snug 3.5-metre wide tower.

Heritage Lottery Funding, together with contributions from the local authority, Cadw and the NCI helped to restore the grade two-listed building to its former glory through the Porthcawl Townscape Heritage Initiative.

Windows, doors and roofing were replaced at the tower, which was built in around 1860, and the external staircase was renewed.

Station Manager Phil Styles said: “Over the past five years, we have logged more than 30,000 voluntary watch hours as we help to keep people safe along the coastline. We have dealt with 284 logged incidents, 113 requiring RNLI Lifeboat assistance, and a further 539 monitored or minor issues.

“We are self-funded and all of our donations come from the local community to which we say thank you very much. We won’t be celebrating until Covid restrictions are eased but we are hoping to have a get together to mark this important milestone later in the year.

“Thanks also to Bridgend County Borough Council and Cadw who worked with the NCI five years ago to refurbish the lookout and turn it into one of the busiest NCI stations in the UK.”

Cllr Charles Smith, Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration, said: “Congratulations to Porthcawl NCI on this milestone – it’s brilliant to see how the service has developed over the past five years.

“Many thanks to the volunteers who give up their time to keep those who visit our beaches and sail off our coastline safe all year round.

“It’s great to have the restored Old Pilot’s Lookout Tower back in use as part of Porthcawl’s overall regeneration, with many more exciting plans in the pipeline.”