Compiled by Anthony Wills

Weston’s Grand pier open at last!

After many delays WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND pier finally reopened on 23 October with hundreds of visitors flocking to view the new pavilion which crowns a £50 million restoration since the fire of July 2008.  The opening ceremony was attended by Tim Phillips, Mike Davies and Lucie Tutton on behalf of the NPS.  BBC Radio 4’s Sunday morning news programmeBroadcasting House compiled a 6-minute package for transmission the following day, including interviews with local MP and Minister for Tourism John Penrose plus pier owner Kerry Michael, as well as vox pops from people visiting the new pavilion. On 12 November a special presentation was made on the pier to Kerry and Michelle Michael. It consists of a Bristol Blue plate inscribedPresented by the National Piers Society in recognition of the Outstanding Achievement in restoring the Grand Pier.  Attending on behalf of the Society were Mike Davies, Lucie Tutton, Frances White and Chris Wyatt. The ceremony was reported in the Bristol Evening Post. On 2 December an amateur boxing match, the first in 60 years, was held on the pier and two days later it was the venue for the Finals of the Miss Great Britain contest.

Southwold taken off the market

Despite receiving many expressions of interest in purchasing SOUTHWOLD pier the owners Stephen & Antonia Bournes have decided to withdraw it from the market. The pier, which had been offered for sale for £6 million since last July, will now be further improved with new toilets and an expanded kitchen area for the Boardwalk restaurant. The owners will be looking for financing to allow work to commence on the proposed 30-bedroomed hotel at the entrance.

Major improvements for Clevedon

CLEVEDON Pier & Heritage Trust has submitted a planning application to provide a range of new visitor facilities on the Grade I listed structure.  The discrete building, designed by architects O’Leary Goss, will be set into the approach ramp, with a dramatic view through a window looking out under the pier. It is planned to include a dedicated education and exhibition space along with refreshment and toilet facilities.  The Trust hopes to generate sufficient income from these to cover all the long term maintenance costs of the pier, at present met by North Somerset Council. Funding will also come from the developer of the adjacent Royal Pier Hotel, who has generously offered to contribute to the project through the construction of the below ground works on the pier ramp.

Beaumaris to be doubled in width

BEAUMARIS pier on the Isle of Anglesey is being doubled in width at a cost of around £3 million as part of the island’s Coastal Environment scheme. The shelter and kiosk at the entrance will be refurbished and a floating pontoon erected at the pier head for commercial operators of trips to Puffin Island. Funding for the project has come from the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Assembly as well as the pier’s owners the Isle of Anglesey County Council.  The pier was built in 1846, making it the oldest in Wales and third oldest in the UK.

Piers in the movies

CROMER Pier Pavilion was the location in mid-November for the shooting of scenes for a forthcoming comedy starring Roger Lloyd Pack, John Hurt, Gwyneth Strong and Niamh Cusack. In Love with Alma Cogan is an affectionate tribute to the popular singer who for a time in the 1950s was the highest paid female entertainer in the UK. Among her hits were Bell Bottom Blues and Never Do A Tango With An Eskimo.

The 2010 remake of Graham Greene’s iconic thriller Brighton Rock, starring Helen Mirren and John Hurt, will be released in the UK on 4 February.  The makers of the film have used EASTBOURNE pier as a stand-in for Brighton Palace, as it has altered less.

CLEVEDON pier features in the film Never Let Me Go, due for release on 11 February. The film stars Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan and is based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, author of The Remains of the Day. On completion of the shoot the film’s director Mark Romanek paid for a plaque dedicated to his two daughters to be installed on the pier.

Other news

A sub-structural survey carried out after the conflagration of 5 October showed that although emergency stabilisation works were required it would still be possible to restore HASTINGS pier. The Hastings & White Rock Pier Trust have selected six architectural firms (out of the 54 who applied) to work with them to support its future funding and redesign. An Emergency Fund Appeal was launched for funds to be used to stabilize the bridge and central section of the pier during the winter months. Coast magazine will be raising money for the appeal as part of its piers campaign which is being unveiled in its March issue.

After being closed for eight months CLEETHORPES pier reopened on 27 November. Around £200,000 has been spent on interior and exterior refurbishment by local businessman Bryn Ilsley, who purchased the pier last May.

Preparatory work on the redevelopment of SOUTHEND pier began in November.  Despite the economic climate the Council had ring-fenced the £3 million cost of constructing a multi-purpose cultural centre at the pier head to include catering and conference facilities as well as a restaurant and performance space. It will be built to the designs of Swedish firm White Arkitekter who won the tender in 2009. The Council has turned down private operators’ offers to install rides and other attractions.

New lights have been installed on the front of ST ANNES pier pavilion, enabling it to be seen from the town’s main square at night. The £20,000 cost of the scheme, using energy saving up-lighters and down-lighters, was funded jointly by the pier owners, Fylde Council and the Lancashire & Blackpool Tourist Board.

Members of the COLWYN BAY VICTORIA pier pressure group have met with the local authority to discuss a possible application for a Community Asset Transfer grant. If successful a maximum of £800,000 would be made available towards the restoration of the crumbling structure, which is currently in the hands of receivers.  This would still leave over £4,500,000 to find in what are acknowledged to be tough economic times.

The death was announced in December, at the age of 92, of Stan Bollom. A former Chairman of the British Association of Leisure Piers and Promenade Attractions, Mr Bollom purchased MUMBLES pier in 1936; it is still owned by his family. He leaves two daughters and a son, John, who is now in charge of the pier. Mr Bollom Jnr recently warned that the only way to save it is by developing a new hotel and apartments on the foreshore.  Being privately owned the pier is not eligible for heritage or other public funding. 1,750 people responding to an online campaign supported the proposals with 1,000 against, on the grounds that the development would spoil the Gower coastline.

RAMSEY Town Commissioners have objected to the Isle of Man Parliament’s plans to spend £1.8 million on stabilisation work to the Queen’s pier. The NPS supported the application.

Two students from the School of Architecture at Canterbury’s School for Creative Arts presented their ideas for the redevelopment for HERNE BAY pier to the Pier Trust at a meeting in November. One envisaged a marina and the other an extension of the High Street precinct with a hotel and shopping mall.

Following the landscaping of the paved area around GRAVESEND TOWN pier Gravesham Borough Council (who have owned the structure since 2000) are inviting designs for a pontoon in order to allow vessels to once again load and unload from the jetty.

The Sun devoted a two-page spread on 13 October to the couple fromWESTON-SUPER-MARE who kissed on, or in front of, every pier and ended up sealing their wedding vows on BRIGHTON PALACE, one of the few structures to be licensed for civil ceremonies.

On the same day the London Evening Standard carried a piece by Olivia Coles entitled Bittersweet Charms of Our Poor Old Piers.    Anthony Wills’ reply giving examples of positive pier developments was printed the following week.

Having successfully flown over WORTHING pier in 2000 intrepid aviator Lewis Cratchen turned his sights to BRIGHTON PALACE and kite-surfed over it on 16 November.

A BBC1 5-part daytime series entitled Rewind the 60s and presented by Lulu ran during the week of 15 November, including an interview filmed onSOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE pier with twin brothers Peter and Paul who had worked for Pontins in the early part of that decade.

Stunning shots of ABERYSTWYTH ROYAL pier were featured in BBC1’sAutumnwatch on 18 November.

BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing paid its annual visit to BLACKPOOL over the weekend of 20/21 November, providing invaluable publicity for the resort and featuring NORTH pier in its opening titles.

Piers featured in two of BBC2’s festive New Year offerings, PENARTH in the dramatised version of TV chef Nigel Slater’s childhood Toast (31 December) and ST ANNES, which stood in for Morecambe in the amusing biopic Eric & Ernie (New Years Day).

Michael Portillo’s new BBC2 series of Great Railway Journeys, in which he travels the length and breadth of the country using Bradshaw’s Railway Guide, kicked off on 3 January in BRIGHTON, where historian Geoff Mead explained the history of the CHAIN pier (1823-96).  The PALACE pier was also featured, but not the WEST. Portillo’s cross-country journey took him to CROMER, where he visited the pier (not, of course, built until just after the end of the Victorian era).

It’s Party Time!

Party On The Pier 2011 was launched in spectacular style on 20 October on board the Hispaniola moored in the Thames.  Around 100 guests from tourism bodies including VisitBritain, Visit England and BALPPA listened to an entertaining speech from NPS Patron Gyles Brandreth. NPS President Gavin Henderson, Chairman Tim Phillips, Vice-Chairman Tim Wardley and Media Relations Officer Anthony Wills represented the NPS.

All around the coast piers are preparing to take part in the biggest event since the Year Of  The Pier in 1996. Party On The Pier, to be held on Saturday 12 March, will be a nationwide celebration of British piers and their heritage, and act as the launch event for this year’s British Tourism Week. Over the years piers have entered the country’s collective psyche as an integral part of the authentic British seaside experience, and the recent outcry over the tragic fire at Hastings last October is a clear sign of the esteem in which they are still held. Party On The Pier has been organised by VisitBritain in collaboration with the NPS and with the support of the British Resorts & Destinations Association, British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers & Attractions, and the Tourism Management Institute. In addition Coast magazine is launching a pier campaign in its March issue to coincide with Party On The Pier. It will be asking its readers to walk along as many piers as possible during the summer and get themselves sponsored, in order to raise money for the rebuilding of Hastings pier. The comedienne Jo Brand, who comes from Hastings, is lending her support to this campaign.

Among the events already planned for Party On The Pier (subject to alteration) are:

  • BOSCOMBE: Lots of games organised by the “Silly Army”
  • BOURNEMOUTH: A “Congathon Competition” against CROMER pier
  • BRIGHTON WEST: Lighting Up The Pier
  • BURNHAM-ON-SEA: A Victorian Tea Party
  • CLEVEDON: A Brass Band Concert
  • CROMER: “Congathon” (see Bournemouth)
  • EASTBOURNE: Black Tie Charity Evening in the Ocean Suite
  • HASTINGS: Party On The Prom including poets, musicians and comedians, plus a market
  • LOOE Banjo: “Banjos On The Banjo” celebration
  • RYDE (IOW):  Fishing Competition
  • SALTBURN: Photographic Exhibition
  • SOUTHAMPTON Royal: A special menu at the Royal Thai Gateway Restaurant
  • SOUTHEND: East Enders Day with Pearly Kings & Queens etc.

Other piers that are definitely taking part are Aberystwyth, Blackpool’s three piers, Bognor Regis, Brighton Palace, Gravesend Town, Hastings, Herne Bay, Lowestoft Claremont, Skegness, Weston-super-Mare Grand and Worthing. Details will appear nearer the date on the British Tourism Week website.

Widespread support has been received for the event. Minister for Tourism John Penrose MP, who represents Weston-super-Mare, commented: “Party On The Pier is a great opportunity to showcase a unique part of British heritage. I for one will be encouraging my constituency to get involved – celebrating on the brilliant newly refurbished Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare.”

Gyles Brandreth, NPS Patron, said: “Despite the prevailing gloom there is still room for a party. Party On The Pier will be the biggest seaside happening in 15 years and I hope everyone will Walk Over The Water on 12 March and have fun!”  

The Society’s President Gavin Henderson agreed: “Let’s blow those blues away on a British pier this day!”

Tim Phillips, NPS Chairman, added: “Party On The Pier will be a golden chance to focus the nation’s attention on these wonderful structures, and I urge all our members, as “frontline troops” for the cause we all hold dear, to get involved and fly the NPS flag around the coast on 12 March.”

Make sure you visit a pier on 12 March (whatever the weather!) and join in the fun….