Compiled by Anthony Wills
At their cabinet meeting on 5 March members of HASTINGS Council agreed, in the apparent absence of any action by owners Ravenclaw Investments, to commission a structural survey of the pier, the estimated cost (£100,000) being taken from the Council’s Seafront Strategy budget. Depending on the survey’s findings the Council will then consider all possible options, including – as a last resort – demolition.
Ravenclaw, however, is set to challenge the legality of the June 2006 closure notice served by the Council. A hearing has been set for 23 April at Lewes Crown Court, at which Ravenclaw intend to show that the Council overreacted in using emergency powers, and that the central section of the pier was not in danger of collapse under normal use. They will be seeking compensation for the financial losses incurred since the closure by the company and the pier traders. It is still hoped that the front section of the pier could reopen for the summer. The Society has been liaising with both parties to find a way forward.
There was bitter disappointment in BLACKPOOL when one of its fiercest rivals, Manchester, was unexpectedly chosen by the Casino Advisory Board as the preferred location for Britain’s first super-casino. GREAT YARMOUTH was one of eight towns recommended as large casino locations, as was SOUTHAMPTON, where the derelict 33-acre ROYAL pier site is a likely home for the building. Over 100 MPs signed a motion urging reconsideration of the Blackpool bid. In the event the board’s recommendation was rejected by the House of Lords, which means the whole thing has to go back to the drawing board.
The report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Seaside Towns was launched at the BURA Seaside Network Conference held in Scarborough early March. It warned that once-thriving resorts would become ghost towns unless the Government offered special funding towards regeneration. Physically isolated with poor transport links, decaying building stock, disproportionate numbers of retired people and those on benefits, they can be caught in a spiral of decline. The National Piers Society submitted written evidence and the Select Committee visited several resorts and heard from representatives from BALPPA and English Heritage.
There is fresh hope that BRIGHTON WEST may rise from the ashes. An unnamed private company has been talking to the West Pier Trust about restoring the greater part of the derelict pier, including the concert hall, incorporating a hotel. This is separate from, and in addition to, the i360 skytower opposite the pier entrance, which has cleared all the planning hurdles and is set to commence construction shortly.
FLEETWOOD pier was offered for sale by auction on 21 February at Manchester Airport, but failed to reach its reserve price. The 101-year old pier stands eight miles north of Blackpool and has three bars, a nightclub, chip shop and amusement arcade, plus 100 metres of jetty. It was bought privately in 2003 and underwent a £2 million makeover, but sold on a year later. In June 2006 it was put up for sale again but a bid of £1.28 million was turned down. This time the highest bid was just £490,000.
Meanwhile the Blackpool Gazette of 13 February reported that a local architect had designed a blueprint for a replacement pier at LYTHAM on the site of the original Eugenius Birch structure, which opened in 1865 and was demolished amid protests in 1960. The eco-friendly pier would house a bird observatory and education centre at its head and would aim to be self-sustaining in energy terms. No planning application has been submitted nor have possible funding sources been approached.
Excavations along GREAT YARMOUTH’s Golden Mile have revealed traces of the tracks which guided trams from WELLINGTON pier to Newtown and Vauxhall from 1902 to 1933. The work is part of a £2 million regeneration project entitled InteGreat which will see the road narrowed to allow for wider pavements with continental-style tables and chairs outside the cafes. Meanwhile, thieves have stolen 7.5 tonnes of copper from the former WELLINGTON pier theatre’s domes, which had been stored in a car park adjacent to the site while the building is converted into a “family entertainment centre”.
Charles (Lord) Forte, who died on 28 February aged 98, was a major player in the catering and leisure industries from the end of the Second World War until his retirement in 1992. His company, which in 1970 merged with Trust House Hotels, at one time owned or operated piers in BLACKPOOL, COLWYN BAY, EASTBOURNE, GREAT YARMOUTH, LLANDUDNO, NEW BRIGHTON, SOUTHEND and SOUTHSEA.
The actor John Inman, who died on 8 March, was born in Preston and made his professional debut on nearby BLACKPOOL SOUTH pier at the age of 13 in 1948.
According to its website, the Inn on the Pier at ABERYSTWYTH introduced 24-hour opening with effect from 4 a.m. on 12 March – the only premises in Ceredigion (mid-Wales) to be granted such a licence since the new Licensing Act came into force.
Anglers on LLANDUDNO pier in north Wales are to introduce a membership scheme to try to curb irresponsible and untidy behaviour by a small minority of fishermen who leave rubbish behind and cause damage to the Grade II* listed structure.
CLEVEDON holds a fund-raising event, Walk The Plank, on 22 April from 1000-1600, aiming to set two new records: the longest distance walked on the pier in a day (currently 78 laps = 30.13 miles) and the number of miles covered by all the walkers on the day (new record). Entry, which must be pre-booked, costs £5 for children and £10 for adults.
The new owners of WESTON SUPER MARE BIRNBECK, Urban Splash (South West), have agreed to allow the Friends of the Old Pier back into the Pier View kiosk for the summer. They have also tidied up the portakabins on the pier approach.
BOURNEMOUTH has been named the happiest place in Britain in a new survey. 82% of its residents declared themselves happy. LLANDUDNO came second in the national study and was the happiest place in Wales.
m.v. Balmoral sails from LLANDUDNO pier daily between 5 – 13 June before calling at WEYMOUTH and BOURNEMOUTH on 19 June, WORTHING (20 June) and EASTBOURNE (22 June). It then bases itself in the Thames with regular cruises from and to SOUTHEND and CLACTON piers (23 June – 10 July).
This year’s Seaside Special summer show at CROMER pier pavilion will run from 23 June to 22 September and stars Peter Piper, Steve Hewlett and Harvey James with the Seaside Special dancers. Before then there are concerts by Joe Brown (14 April), Dominic Kerwin (21 April), The Fureys & Davey Arthur (26 April) and the revived Cromer Folk Festival runs from 11-13 May, including an appearance by Fairport Convention.
With the success of Strictly Come Dancing and other Saturday night variety series on TV it’s worth noting that SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE has been offering weekly tea dances for the past 26 years. Organised by Steve Kingsley and Pat Andrews the sessions cost £3 and run on Wednesday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. With Hastings closed, are any other piers currently offering ballroom dancing?
MEDIAWATCH Compiled by ANTHONY WILLS
BBC2’s afternoon auction series Flog It! has featured various piers over the winter.
The December 2006 issue of Harper’s Bazaar included BRIGHTON PALACE, CROMER, LLANDUDNO and SOUTHEND piers in its Country & Coast feature.
Taking its cue from the news that an earring lost years ago by Marlene Dietrich had recently turned up at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the Guardian of 11 January had a double-page photo spread of archive photos of holidaymakers on BRIGHTON PALACE, EASTBOURNE and WEYMOUTH BANDSTAND piers taken in the 1930s.
The Times of 16 January had a picture of a surfboarder walking underneath BOSCOMBE pier to accompany its news item on the commencement of work on the resort’s £1.4 million artificial surf reef, due to be completed by September.
The Daily Mail of 25 January had a striking image of BRIGHTON PALACE and the adjacent beach blanketed in fallen snow.
BRIGHTON PALACE was the setting for Episode 1 of Lynne Truss’s new comedy thriller Inspector Steine, set in the 1950s and broadcast on Radio 4 on 26 January.
BLACKPOOL’s failure to win the super-casino bid was graphically covered in the Times of 31 January under the heading The Lights Go Out On Blackpool’s Grand Idea, with a picture of a rainswept promenade.
The Daily Telegraph of 24 February previewed the Seaside Network Conference organised in Scarborough in March by BURA and attended by Tim Phillips and Fred Gray. The Parliamentary Select Committee’s report on Seaside Towns, which was launched at the conference, was extensively covered in the Guardian of 8 March, which focussed on GREAT YARMOUTH and SOUTHWOLD, both deprived towns in their way.
The Times Bricks and Mortar supplement of 16 March had a cover photograph of Damian Barr on a carousel on BRIGHTON PALACE to illustrate its feature on the property boom in the resort, which also mentioned the i360 observation tower to be constructed on the WEST pier site.
(Thanks to Tim Mickleburgh, David Cheshire, Steve Wilkinson, Anthony Hicks and J. Whibley for their contributions)