An old land agreement continues to delay the building of a visitor centre next to an iconic lighthouse which was once home to the founding father of global conservation.

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Doug and Sue Hilton, who bought the Grade II-listed lighthouse at Sutton Bridge in 2010, have been asking the Environment Agency for more than a year to overturn a covenant placed on the land which prevents more than one dwelling.

The couple were given planning permission last year for a visitor centre, café and other improvements at the remote Lincolnshire landmark, once home to Sir Peter Scott, and in the summer were awarded £100,000 by Sutton Bridge Parish Council for their project.

But until the covenant is overturned, the couple admit they cannot push ahead with the project, which also includes a classroom and toilets and will overlook the wildfowl ponds on the site.

Mr Hilton said: “The project is moving along, but very slowly at the moment for various reasons with one being the covenant on the land.”

He added the couple are also seeking approval from the Environment Agency to put buildings near the sea wall and for their septic unit.

They also need more funding and are currently negotiating a new coach parking area at the neighbouring picnic site.

He continued: “We are still hoping to have everything built next year but we don’t think it will be open in August when we will open the lighthouse to visitors.”

Expected to cost around £325,000 in total, the eco-friendly centre is likely to create at least one full-tme managers job.

Once started, the building work on the centre will be completed in stages, starting with the installation of a new sewerage system

The funding from Sutton Bridge Parish Council for the project came from an £1m fund, administered by South Holland District Council, that was set up to benefit the local community when the Sutton Bridge Power Station was built in 1999.

Originally built to guide shipping in and out of the mouth of the River Nene in 1826, the lighthouse was the home of the pioneering conservationist Sir Peter Scott during the 1930s.

It was here that Sir Peter, who would go on to help found the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, discovered his passion for wildfowl and their migrations to and from our shores.

In 1939 he left the lighthouse to work on destroyers in the North Atlantic and command a group of motor torpedo boats.

In 1985 the lighthouse was bought by conservationist Commander David Joel, who spent 25 years modernising the 55ft-high structure, including connecting it to mains electricity and plumbing for the first time.

Find out more about the project at www.snowgoosewildlifetrust.org.

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