A LIGHTHOUSE that has stood on the Sussex coast for over 50 years is set to be decommissioned this spring.

The Royal Sovereign Lighthouse off the coast of Eastbourne was first brought into operation in September 1971, but will be removed due to its structural condition.

In its absence, Beachy Head Lighthouse upgraded to ensure the safety of passing vessels.

Aids to navigation on the lighthouse will be permanently discontinued towards the end of March, with buoys placed around the station to mark the area until decommissioning work is completed.

Deputy master captain of Trinity House, the official authority for lighthouses in England and Wales, said: "It is never an easy decision to discontinue and even remove such a prominent aid to navigation, but our first priority will always be the safety of the mariner.

"Now that Royal Sovereign Lighthouse has reached the end of its serviceable life, it is time for us to take steps to ensure that the lighthouse itself does not become a hazard.

"There will be a lot of work involved for our engineers and our various other teams and we will be working extensively in collaboration with a number of organisations to ensure the success of this project."

The Argus: A lightship used to be stationed to ensure the safety of shipping off the coast of EastbourneA lightship used to be stationed to ensure the safety of shipping off the coast of Eastbourne

The lighthouse was built to replace a light vessel that had marked the Royal Sovereign Shoal since 1875 and was the first in the UK to have a helicopter pad incorporated as part of its design.

The structure was built in sections on Newhaven beach and floated into place - a technique developed for building oil rigs. It had a design life of 50 years.

Opening in 1971, the lighthouse was automated and converted to solar power in 1994, and helicopters provided access for servicing and maintaining the structure.

The light of the lighthouse stands 28 metres above sea level and has a range of 28 miles.

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