AN historic boat on display at Poole Quay is being damaged due to the state of the boathouse in which it is housed.

And fears have been raised that the area could lose the attraction which raises thousands of pounds for the lifeboats.

The old lifeboat station at Fisherman’s Dock has been a museum since 1974, housing historic lifeboat and Dunkirk veteran Thomas Kirk Wright.

But the building leaks, floods and is said to be unsuitable for the 1939 lifeboat, which made three trips across the Channel from Ramsgate to the Dunkirk beaches, rescuing members of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940. The RNLI is considering moving the old lifeboat, which is owned by the National Maritime Museum, to other premises.

Last year more than 30,000 people visited the vessel and through donations and selling souvenirs volunteers raised £33,000, of which £19,000 went to Poole Lifeboat.

“I personally don’t like the idea of it leaving where it is at the moment,” said souvenir secretary David Bowman. “Simply because it’s an attraction.

“We seem to draw in a lot more people with the boat there.”

Volunteer Brian Traves, who with wife Marge registered the boat with the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, said: “The long-term view is that she will have to have some work done to her keel, there is some rot there,” he said.

“To maintain her she will eventually have to be moved.”

But he said he could not see this happening for around five years.

Poole town councillor and Poole People leader Cllr Mark Howell, who raised the issue with the RNLI, said: “Poole Quay has lost a number of tourist assets in the last 20 years.

“The loss of the lifeboat would be a further significant blow and would upset many residents of Poole.”

He suggested if it was not financially viable for the RNLI to continue to maintain the building, which is owned by Borough of Poole, it could transfer liabilities to another organisation.

Vessel's home not ideal

Paul Boissier, chief executive of the RNLI, said the boat had been on loan since 1971 and over the last 10 years there had been a number of surveys of the vessel by specialists.

“Their reports confirm that the current boathouse environment is not ideal for the boat in the long-term due to the high relative humidity, fluctuations of temperature and occasional flooding,” he said. “To safeguard the boat for the future, alternative venues in Poole are being discussed but any changes must be agreed with National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.”

Cllr Neil Sorton, cabinet portfolio holder for efficiency, improvement and resources, Borough of Poole, said the council was negotiating a lease with the RNLI and the papers were sent out on December 2.

“Once this has been signed by the RNLI and ratified by Borough of Poole, the RNLI will be free to carry out the agreed repair works and refurbishment. However, until we receive the signed lease, work cannot commence,” he said.