THIS is the first picture of the controversial RLNI lifeboat station proposed for Hoylake.
Lifeboat chiefs say more lives would be saved at sea if they were allowed to build the £1.7m station on the old swimming baths site in the town, known as The Green.
But the proposal has attracted fierce opposition from a number of residents, who have objected to both the design and location of the new building on the waterfront.
They claim it will spoil their view and also encroach on public open space, in opposition to Wirral Council's development policies.
John Curry, lifeboat operations manager at Hoylake and a river pilot, said the local service had saved more than 560 lives in its 200-year history.
He added: "This will enable us to get out to sea faster to save more lives. If you look prop-erly at the plans, the building will only take a tenth of the site and the parking one fifth so it's a relative small area in a vast space.
"There's a vista vision here to the sea with miles and miles of sand.
"It is a utilitarian building but not unpleasant and I believe it will enhance the area and make it even more interesting because people will be able to visit."
The building will house the station's new fast response craft and the site was chosen over an alternative location at the Old Hoylake School site.
There will also be a small shop selling RNLI products.
Hoylake resident John Davies, one of the main opponents of the scheme, said: "We are not anti-RNLI or against the Hoylake lifeboat.
"But an enormous amount of coastline will be blotted out."
Tory councillor Gerry Ellis added: "This is developing into the biggest issue in Hoylake's recent history. People are really split over this.
"Those living opposite the site do not want the urban green space to be lost, then there are those who fully support what the RNLI want to do because of its importance."
The lifeboat station is celebrating 200 years of operations this year, and is older than the Royal National Lifeboat Institution itself.
The first lifeboat was built in 1803 by Henry Gatehead and maintained by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, which also owns the building currently used at Hoylake.
The current station, on North Parade, first opened in 1899 and although many alterations have taken place over the years many of the original features can still be seen.
The scheme was due to go before Wirral's planning committee tomorrow evening, but has been deferred until next Wednesday, November 12.