Compiled by Anthony Wills
The Executive Committee of the National Piers Society met in London on Saturday 21 July, and agreed the following officer appointments with immediate effect: Chairman Timothy Phillips, Vice-Chairman Timothy Wardley, Hon. Secretary Louise Foster, Company Secretary Frances White. Anthony Wills remains a Director of National Piers Society Ltd. and a member of the Executive Committee.
National Piers Society archivist Martin Easdown has two new piers books out, Piers of Kent and Southend Pier. Copies may be ordered from NPS Sales at Rose Cottage, Caldecott Green, Farndon nr.Chester CH3 6PE.
The judge hearing the HASTINGS pier case at Lewes Crown Court ruled on 27 April that the local Council had acted properly in issuing an emergency closure notice on the pier owners Ravenclaw Investments, which has resulted in the pier being closed since 18 June 2006. He also froze the assets of Ravenclaw and ordered them to pay compensation for loss of earnings and staff redundancies amounting to £280,000 to Stylus Sports Ltd., proprietors of the bingo club and bar on the pier. In a surprise move a management buyout of the pier, led by commercial manager Harmesh Pooni, was disallowed by the courts following an appeal by Stylus Sports, who thought their compensation might be at risk. Stylus have meanwhile paid £200,000 for work to be carried out underneath the bingo hall (former theatre) and Bar Luxor, allowing the central section of the pier to reopen for business on 6 July. Severe weather forced the temporary re-closure of the pier over the following weekend; 200 people were evacuated after lightning struck the pier. The results of safety trials carried out by the Council (who contributed £50,000 towards the cost of repairs) were satisfactory. Stylus will attempt to claim the £200,000 back from the owners, who opposed the work because it has been started without their consent. A health and safety case against Ravenclaw was due to be heard in court on 10 July.
Tourism in North Wales was struck a severe blow by the last-minute cancellation of sailings by mv Balmoral from LLANDUDNO pier. The trips had been due to begin at the end of May, but the landing stage requires costly repairs which the owners Six Piers Ltd, say they cannot afford to finance. An appeal to the County Council for funding assistance towards the cost was turned down. Now a supporters club established by local historian Craig Ollerton (www.olle.co.uk) has organised an on-line petition, and the National Piers Society has added its support for a plurality of funding sources to raise the necessary cash. It notes that Llandudno pier has never charged Waverley Excursions any landing fees for use of the jetty, nor has it charged arriving or departing passengers a pier toll. Meanwhile the Balmoral sailings have been diverted to Menai Bridge, with coach connections laid on to and from Llandudno.
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 was set to commence construction on 23 July.
Meanwhile the nearby PALACE pier had to be closed after a man climbed to the top of the 100ft high rollercoaster and threatened to jump. The incident, which happened in early May, involved five police cars, two fire engines, an ambulance and local coastguards.
YARMOUTH (Isle of Wight) pier has been awarded a Heritage Lottery grant of £350,000 towards the cost of replacing piles that are being attacked by gribbles. The Grade II listed structure (one of only four remaining on the island) still receives visits from Waverley (1-2, 5-10, 12-16 September).
PENARTH pier has received a £50,000 Lottery grant towards the cost of a feasibility study into possible future uses for its neglected Pier Pavilion. At once stage it was planned to use the building as a cinema. It has been used for live shows and as a gymnasium in the past.
After a couple of false starts FLEETWOOD pier was eventually sold in April to a local entertainer, Mike Simmons, known professionally as Joey Blower. Mr Simmons said he was looking at redeveloping the site as a hotel, casino or flats, as the existing more traditional format had not worked over the past twenty years. He has now published plans for luxury apartments on the site.
SOUTHWOLD pier owner Stephen Bournes finally received the go-ahead to build ten luxury two-bedroom apartments on the upper floor with rooftop terraces and balconies – with one important condition. The existing Pavilion function room will be retained, extended and refurbished, with the addition of modern kitchen facilities. Mr Bournes attended the Society’s AGM in Southend on 26 May and gave an interesting insight into the joys and woes of running a pier without any kind of subsidy.
There is fresh hope for the severed pier at HERNE BAY in Kent, with a new attempt to set up a Trust which could be eligible to apply for Heritage Lottery and other public funding.
BOURNEMOUTH pier partially reopened in time for Easter and the pleasure boats reported excellent business in the unseasonably warm weather. No toll was payable due to the restricted access caused by the ongoing works, including concrete repairs costing £700,000. A new toll booth and gates were due to be installed in July. The Pier theatre is offering a varied programme of entertainment this summer including Freddie Starr on Sundays (5-26 August only), a sparkling Summer Spectacular from 11 July to 15 September (Wednesday – Saturday nights only at 7.30 p.m., with a Wednesday matinee at 2.30 p.m.) and a tribute to Queen on Tuesday nights from 24 July – 28 August at 7.30 p.m. A swarm of around 20,000 honeybees descended on the pier towards the end of May looking for a new home, but caused no interference to holidaymakers.
Meanwhile on neighbouring BOSCOMBE pier the land end pier building, which was spot-listed a couple of years ago, has been refurbished. The tenders for the retail and catering units have had to be re-tendered following abortive negotiations with the preferred contractor. Works to the seaward end have been moving quickly with jack-up barges in place and cranes demolishing the old platform. The pier is due to reopen in October. Objections have been received concerning the construction of the artificial surfing reef east of the pier. Meanwhile the magnificent 19th century Boscombe Opera House has been fully restored with private money and is staging rock and comedy events.
Further west TEIGNMOUTH pier reported an excellent start to the season but then the rain arrived and May and June were a washout.
A new company, Taylor & Co., are due to take over maintenance work on and underneath PAIGNTON pier in the late summer, while at FALMOUTH Prince of Wales consulting engineers are due to give their verdict on a large crack in the solid portion of the quay. Repairs should be completed by the end of March 2008.
A fisherman on CROMER pier who had a sea bass he had just caught stolen from him has vowed to catch the youths responsible. Ian Lambert is a private detective and has obtained information about their whereabouts which he hopes will lead to an early arrest.
CLEETHORPES’ new owner is going for the youth market with Foam Parties, Under 18s only on Mondays, Vodkash! with Red Square on Wednesdays and Star DJs on Saturdays. Most nights the club is open until 0400. On Sundays until the end of August the pier is hosting On the Terrace featuring soul, house and electronic music from 3.30 to 10.30 p.m. and admission is free.
The Southern Pavilion on WORTHING pier which has lain unused for 18 months since the closure of the Lush nightclub operated by Luminar Leisure, is to receive a £1 million refit. Three businessmen have joined together to sign a new lease with pier owners Worthing Borough Council. The Pavilion has an interesting history. For many years it hosted concerts of light classical music given by the only remaining municipal orchestra in Britain. It became Simpsons Bar in the 1980s and then Rutherfords nightclub. At other times in its history it has been a cinema and even a small zoo! Worthing was the NPS Pier of the Year in 2006, and will be holding its second Pier Day on 9 September, featuring tours, exhibitions, face painting, a Children’s Parade and lots of other activities. The National Piers Society hopes to be there too!
GREAT YARMOUTH BRITANNIA, which has one of the few operational pier theatres left, has appointed a new manager. Craig Hilton, whose background includes cruise ships and nightclubs, has pledged to bring big names back to the 1,200 seat venue and open it from Easter through to October, leaving the winter for amateur productions. In fact the Yarmouth Operatic & Dramatic Society has pledged to stage a pantomime there for the first time in eight years.
The future of the MUMBLES lifeboat house and its slipway has been secured, for the next four years ay least. The RNLI has spent around £100,000 repairing them in order to keep the busy all-weather lifeboat on the pier. The situation will be reviewed in 2011 when a new, larger Tamar-class boat is due to be delivered.
Freak weather over the last couple of months is not known to have caused any damage to piers, largely because it did not coincide with the times of spring tides. However, April was gloriously warm and sunny, with practically no rainfall anywhere in England and Wales. May began well (your Chairman Anthony Wills was in Cornwall until the 8th) but quickly became disappointingly dull, and June has seen record torrential and continuous rainfall, accompanied by hail and thunderstorms, especially in north-east and south-west England, with Sheffield being particularly badly hit. Hon. Secretary Tim Wardley spent a week on mv Balmoral in appalling weather in late June There has also been heavy rain in MELBOURNE Australia, home to the ST KILDA pier. The bad weather continued with monsoon-like rainstorms over much of Britain on 20 July.
On Thursday 5 July Executive Committee member Fred Gray was on the panel at a one-day conference called Modernism on Sea at the de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex. The conference explored creative responses to the seaside in 20th century Britain. NPS Chairman Tim Phillips will be representing the Society at BURA Seaside Network’s second coastal conference to be held in Rhyl, North Wales on 15 – 16 September.
Both Jet 2 and Ryanair withdrew their scheduled air services between London and BLACKPOOL in June, and the Conservative party has announced that this year’s party conference (30 September – 3 October), to be held in the Winter Gardens, will be their last in the resort (Labour has already defected to Manchester and the Tories have decided to move to Birmingham). Former NPS Chairman Anthony Wills and Vice-Chairman Tim Wardley will be attending the Blackpool conference thanks to a bursary from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). Meanwhile the new Gordon Brown-led Government has virtually abandoned the idea of a super casino.
A survey by www.lastminute.com has placed BRIGHTON, BLACKPOOL and SOUTHEND among the top ten destinations favoured by overseas visitors. And the annual survey of Britain’s beaches conducted by the Marine Conservation Society has given 500 beaches (representing more than 60% of the total) full marks, a 400% increase on the 1997 figure. However, the Sunday Times of 10 June reported an increase in stomach infections caused by seabathing in polluted waters around our coast.
BLACKPOOL NORTH pier theatre hosted two early season shows, Music, Music, Music on Wednesdays and Bobby Crush’s tribute to American entertainer Liberace on Thursdays (to 7 July). From 19 July and weekly on Thursdays until 1 November there is a Morecambe & Wise tribute show Bring Me Sunshine, while Saturdays see Soap Queens starring Bernie Nolan and Richard Shelton, with comedian Tucker in support. Kids are not forgotten as Sooty holds sway on Saturday afternoons.
A charity swim organised by the British Heart Foundation was due to take place between BOURNEMOUTH and BOSCOMBE piers on 22 July. The annual Paddle Round BRIGHTON’s Piers took place on 7 & 8 July.
The 27th annual BOGNOR Birdman Rally takes place on the pier over the weekend of 1 & 2 September. Telephone 01243 868174 or visit www.birdman.org.uk for further information. The National Piers Society will be there – do visit our stand at the Royal Norfolk Hotel – there will be books and souvenirs on sale and you can also join the Society on the spot.
English Heritage will be holding a two day conference Seaside Heritage, Colourful Past, Bright Future at St Mary in the Castle, HASTINGS on Tuesday/Wednesday 16/17 October. Among the speakers will be this Society’s Fred Gray and Professor John K. Walton from the University of Central Lancashire. The Society recently wrote to English Heritage expressing concern at the virtual omission of piers from the latest Buildings at Risk register, launched on 24 July at Battersea Power Station.
MEDIAWATCH Compiled by ANTHONY WILLS
The Daily Telegraph magazine of 31 March had a feature sponsored by the Energy Saving Trust entitled Help Preserve Your Favourite Place with a photo of SOUTHPORT pier at sunset, described by the paper’s style director Tamsin Blanchard as her favourite landmark.
The Sun of 11 April briefly reported a safety incident on BRIGHTON PALACE when the Super Booster ride began operating before some children’s harnesses had been fully secured. Staff insisted that there was no danger.
Tonight With Trevor McDonald, shown on ITV1 on 27 April, asked Is The British Seaside In Terminal Decline? It showed a bustling SOUTHPORT with its restored pier and new luxury housing developments. Meanwhile Southport MP John Pugh called for the Government to act on the recent Select Committee report by allocating special help to regenerate coastal towns, a point that the National Piers Society is also pressing hard.
The Daily Mail of 4 May had a property feature headed Bognor’s Booming, forecasting a bright future for the South Coast resort, which is to benefit from a £500 million regeneration scheme executed on behalf of the local authority by developers St Modwen. There are however no plans for the privately-owned BOGNOR pier (which dates from 1865) to benefit from this largesse, though owner John Ayres continues to spend considerable amounts of money maintaining and updating it.
The Times of 12 May reported, in a full-page feature entitled Hangin’ With The New Wave, on the construction of the £1.4 million artificial surf reef east of BOSCOMBE pier. However this has since been put on hold following objections from local fishermen. On the same day the Daily Mail carried a feature Surf‘s Up In The South extolling the delights of BOURNEMOUTH, BRIGHTON and the ISLE OF WIGHT.
The latest (third) series of Coast on BBC-2, which began on 3 June, has had some wonderful aerial shots of TEIGNMOUTH and other piers. NPS Vice-Chairman Tim Phillips was briefly seen talking about piers from Lowestoft in the edition of Tuesday 31 July, repeated on Saturday 4 August. The series is available on DVD.
Former NPS Chairman Anthony Wills was featured in a BBC Radio Wales series Past Masters which went out on 24 and 25 June. The programme, presented by Phil Carradice, looked at the changing face of pier entertainment down the years, from pierrots to opera to variety.
BBC1’s peaktime series The Big Day kicked off on 5 July with a couple working in a Blackpool casino whose friends and relatives helped raise £40,000 to give them a classy white wedding. Much of the programme was filmed in the heritage gallery on BLACKPOOL NORTH pier theatre.
Also on BBC1 the splendidly sinister series Jeykll starring James Nesbitt had an episode based on and around BOGNOR REGIS pier shown on a Saturday evening later in July. The series is already out on DVD.
The Guardian of 14 July carried a substantial seaside supplement including a Top Ten list of UK seaside piers, compiled with assistance from this Society.
Sunday Times doom-monger Richard Girling had a new book Sea Change out on 2 July, and the paper has been serialising excerpts from it. Girling claims, that despite recent improvements, 130 beaches around Britain’s coast are still infected, and bathing in them carries a high risk. Among the resorts singled out are parts of the beaches at CLACTON-ON-SEA, HASTINGS, BRIGHTON, WORTHING, BOGNOR REGIS, PAIGNTON, TEIGNMOUTH and WESTON-SUPER-MARE.
The Sunday Times dated 19 August was due to carry an article by Robert Booth on the construction of apartments on piers as a way of raising revenue, with comments from Anthony Wills.
(Thanks to Michael Bevis, David Cheshire, Fred Gray, Anthony Hicks, Tim Mickleburgh, Tim Phillips, Violet Salter, Josie Whibley, Stewart Wild, Steve Wilkinson and Ken Wisdom for their contributions)