LIFEBOAT supporters are celebrating after reaching their £200,000 fundraising target, set just over a year ago to help bankroll a new £3.5million RNLI lifeboat station in Swanage.

The base, which was given official planning permission by Purbeck District Council earlier this summer, is needed to house the RNLI’s £1.5million Shannon Class lifeboat, which is the latest jet-propelled vessel in the charity’s fleet and is expected to arrive in Swanage in 2016.

The majority of the cost of the build has been funded by a substantial legacy, but there is still £1.3million needed.

RNLI fundraisers announced that they had surpassed the £200,000 milestone as Swanage Lifeboat Week – the town’s biggest lifeboat fundraising event – started on Friday August 8.

Swanage RNLI lifeboat station appeal chairman Peter Foster said: “While we have been successful in raising the £200,000 that was our original target, we are determined that we can continue to build on the enthusiasm and support for the crew and increase that figure. The more we can raise through community fundraising the better will be our new facilities ensuring that our crews can get to sea safely, and faster, in order to save lives.”

Building work on the new lifeboat station, at the same site as the current one, is scheduled to start in the autumn.

Swanage RNLI lifeboat operations manager Neil Hardy said: “I am extremely proud and delighted of both our community in Swanage and the RNLI fundraisers who have managed to achieve this phenomenal feat.

“What’s more astonishing is that they do this voluntarily, as do all the other fundraising branches from around the country that have supported our appeal.”