Compiled by Anthony Wills
Brighton Palace up for sale
In a shock announcement made on 30 June the Noble Organisation revealed that it was putting BRIGHTON PALACE pier on the market. The news had been leaked to The Guardian the previous day and was subsequently covered in the rest of the national papers. Palace pier is the most visited in the UK and among the Top Ten visitor attractions in the country. No reason has been given for the disposal.
Hastings gets the green light, but no convictions for arson pair
The HASTINGS Pier & White Rock Trust has received development funding of £357,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards its restoration scheme, prior to the submission of a full application for £8.7 million. Hastings Council is poised to purchase the pier compulsorily from its absentee owners Ravenclaw Ltd. but this is not expected to be completed before next spring. English Heritage has given a grant of £100,000 towards stabilisation works. A consultation meeting held on 4 June was well supported. The Trust’s Annual General Meeting held at the White Rock Theatre five days later heard presentations from architects dRMM and Leisure Development Partners. Meanwhile a pair of local businesses, Costcutter and Heaven-on-Sea in nearby St Leonards, have thrown their weight behind the campaign by donating £1,000 each towards the Trust’s fighting fund. An Independence Day Market was held on 3 July to raise funds and Asda supermarket staged a beach party on the 9th. Volunteers are needed to man stalls at future events. In April the town was outraged to learn of the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision that the two youths who had been held on bail on suspicion of arson since the fire of 5 October destroyed 90% of the structure were not to be prosecuted.
Penarth secures £1.68m of Lottery funding
The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £1.68 million towards the cost of restoring the Pavilion building which opened on PENARTH pier in 1929. Penarth Arts & Crafts project director Maggie Knight said it was an important step towards raising the overall target of £3.7 million. A further donation of £25,000 has been received from the John Paul Getty Jr charitable trust. The Trust has also submitted an application for £700,000 to the Community Asset Transfer Programme, a joint venture between the Big Lottery Fund and the Welsh Assembly Government. To keep up to date with developments visit www.penarthpavilion.co.uk
A new dawn for Blackpool North
BLACKPOOL NORTH pier, built by Eugenius Birch and opened in 1863, has changed hands for an undisclosed sum. The Grade II listed structure has been sold by Six Piers Ltd. to Peter Sedgwick, who operates amusement arcades and the Big Wheel ride on CENTRAL pier. One of Mr Sedgwick’s first actions was to scrap the pier toll and give the run-down structure a fresh coat of paint. He has pledged to preserve the 1,500-seat pier head theatre and is already staging nightly shows this season featuring acts such as Michael Barrymore, The Grumbleweeds and The Houghton Weavers (Box Office tel. 01253 623304). In the longer term he intends to restore the pier’s tram operation. Elsewhere on the seafront the historic Tower, which is now owned by Blackpool Borough Council, is being rebranded in conjunction with Merlin Entertainments Ltd. as the Blackpool Tower Eye and will reopen on 1 September in time for the start of the Illuminations, together with the Blackpool Tower Dungeons and a 4D cinema. The glass ceiling of the iconic ballroom will be restored so that patrons will be able to “dance under the stars”.
Shock closure of Bournemouth pier theatre planned
One of only six pier theatres still in operation looks set to close at the end of September. Openwide International, who run the venue on behalf of BOURNEMOUTH Council, have applied for planning permission to convert it into an all-weather attraction called RockReef with climbing walls and a surf training wave. The 850-seat theatre, which opened in 1960, has seen countless stars appear on its boards including Arthur Askey, Sid James, Les Dawson and Lionel Blair. Openwide’s Rory Holburn said: “The scheme aims to encourage active participation and introduce children and new users to fitness activities in a fun and entertaining format. We also want to provide experienced users and local residents with training facilities and become a social hub to the local community.” Children’s television star and local resident Chris Jarvis has called for a re-think. He said: “I hope it’s not a knee-jerk reaction to the economic recession. It’s a wonderful venue and a beautiful theatre. I know times change but it would be a real shame to wreck that infrastructure inside.” Ken Mantock, Chairman of Bournemouth Civic Society, added: “I hope the Council think very carefully before signing away something that’s been part of the town’s cultural mix for many, many years”. The Society is urging the Theatres Trust and the Cinema Theatre Association to join with them in opposing the application. Society members visited the theatre during last year’s AGM weekend.
Colwyn Bay saga continues
With the ownership of COLWYN BAY pier set to revert to Steve Hunt in July (see PIERS passim) the local authority, Conwy Borough Council, voted on 8 June to try to purchase it from liquidators Royce Peel & Greening (RPG). Councillors had been advised that the cost of demolition would be in the region of £1 million while re-modelling the pier as a simple boardwalk could cost £3.5 million and full restoration £6.4 million. RPG’s preferred option was to sell the freehold of the pier to the Victoria Pier Pressure Group for £35,000. Steve Hunt had gone on hunger strike prior to the June meeting and Clwyd West MP David Jones had urged caution until indications of funding were received from the Heritage Lottery Fund or Welsh Government. Meanwhile contractors began work in May to improve Colwyn Bay’s sea defences and promenade facilities. The Society is planning to hold its 2012 Annual General Meeting in neighbouring Llandudno.
it the end of the line for the Waverley?
The iconic paddle steamer Waverley could be sailing her last season on the Clyde this year as operators face a £0.5m rise in fuel costs. Owners Waverley Excursions have warned that high fuel prices, combined with a drop in passenger numbers following a string of wet summers, could force the end of a decades-old tradition. The owners are now appealing to the public to raise the £500,000 that they need to keep the historic vessel steaming. The charity receives an annual grant of £26,000 from Glasgow City Council but, with the boat burning £400 worth of fuel every hour, £3m is needed just to cover costs. Graeme Hogg of Waverley Excursions said: “We are now faced with an extra fuel bill for this season alone of a quarter of a million pounds. Unless we can find ways of plugging this gap this could be the last year that we’re able to sail the ship, because the economics become unviable beyond that”. The Waverley is due to sail from BOURNEMOUTH, CLACTON, HARWICH, RYDE (IOW), WEYMOUTH, WORTHING and YARMOUTH (IOW) in September and October, and the Balmoral from BOURNEMOUTH, CLEVEDON, CLACTON, HARWICH, PENARTH, SOUTHWOLD, WEYMOUTH and WORTHING on various dates from July – October. Check the website www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk
Boscombe pier “crumbling”?
Last year’s Pier Of The Year, BOSCOMBE, has been showing signs of disintegration just three years after a £2.4 million restoration. An inspection showed that the outer casing of one leg was coming away. It has now been established that this was caused by a contractor’s barge colliding with it while carrying out remedial work. Works will be carried out at the end of the season at the contractor’s expense.
Hythe struggling for survival
The ferry service between HYTHE pier and Southampton Town Quay is being hit by a double whammy: rising fuel prices and pensioners switching to bus services which accept their free passes. At present Hampshire County Council subsidizes the service to the tune of £55,000 per year but this is under scrutiny. The fine weather over the spring has seen plenty of passengers take the electric train down the 130-year old pier (7th longest in the UK) but the service is only viable if sufficient numbers use it all year round.
Weymouth to get i360 tower?
A plan to erect a 174 ft. high i360 degree tower at the end of WEYMOUTH COMMERCIAL/PLEASURE pier has been submitted to the local authority by Merlin Entertainment. If permission is granted work would begin immediately with a view to opening the structure to the public in July 2012 in time for the Olympic Games, for which Weymouth is hosting the sailing championships. Merlin operate the Blackpool Tower and Legoland, as well as the London Eye, and have already established a presence in Weymouth with their Sea Life Park.
New VAT threat to piers
The Society is helping piers owners to campaign against new legislation which could affect their livelihoods, particularly those who rely heavily on amusement arcades. Under a proposed change to the rules concerning Machine Gaming Duty the VAT element of the takings would no longer be creditable against VAT expenditure on other activities, such as structural maintenance. Trade bodies BALLPA and BACTA have submitted pleas to the Treasury to obtain some kind of dispensation and the Society has lobbied both the Chancellor and the Minister for Culture & Tourism to prevent a real threat to the future of some piers.
Herne Bay Pier Trust appeals for local support
The HERNE BAY Pier Trust wants to recruit 1,000 local people to help fund a feasibility study into how it might be rebuilt. In October owners Canterbury City Council will demolish the 1960s sports pavilion at the beach end of the pier, leaving a flat platform space on which the Council will work together with the Trust to create events and activities. This it is hoped will expand Trust membership to move on to the next stage of restoration. The Trust will hold its Annual General Meeting in September.
Harwich Ha’penny greets historic light vessel
A historic lightship, LV18, has taken its place alongside HARWICH HA’PENNY pier after £220,000 was spent on creating a new mooring. The ship, which is owned by the Pharos Trust, has been transformed into a tourist attraction. In the early 1960s she was anchored out to sea and operated as a pirate radio station. When BBC Essex recreated that era with the station’s current presenters the response was overwhelming. Now, after volunteers have spent ten years restoring her, the public will be able to take below the decks tours and of course enjoy the delightful Ha’penny pier as well.
The Steel Pier in ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey has been put up for auction, with a reserve of $2.5 million. The pier dates back to 1898 but suffered severe storm damage in 1904 and devastating fires in 1969 and 1982 which destroyed the remainder of the original structure. At one time the pier showcased stars of the calibre of Charlie Chaplin, Benny Goodman, Mae West and Frank Sinatra, but it consists now of 24 rides, games and prize wheels. It is currently operated by Steel Pier Amusements Inc., who lease it from Trump Entertainments, a company in which Donald Trump has only a 10% stake. Atlantic City has been suffering from the economic downturn as well as new casinos opening up in other states.
A replacement pier is planned at ST KILDA, the resort area of Melbourne, Australia. The new structure would be built alongside the present pier which would eventually be destroyed, and would feature a sea pool and penguin observatory. A new marina, inner-harbour precinct and boat yard would also go ahead under the plan. One stumbling block, however, is the estimated cost of the project, reckoned to be in excess of $Aus 15 million.
A plan is being drawn up to convert the Winter Gardens building adjacent to GREAT YARMOUTH WELLINGTON pier into a “mini Eden Project” drawing inspiration from the Cornwall attraction. The building, purchased for £1,300 in 1903 from Torquay Council, has in its time served as a tea room, roller-skating rink and family entertainment centre. It has been closed for the past two years on safety grounds while the cash-strapped local authority has looked at ways of finding £750,000 just to make it safe. The cost of securing the glass by replacing the rotten wooden framework is estimated at £6 million. Councillors believe that English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund may look more favourably on an application now that the Winter Gardens’ listed building status has been raised from Grade II to Grade II*.
Just three weeks after it reopened following £5 million of repairs a smouldering cigarette caused a 4ft. wooden beam about three-quarters of the way down RYDE (IOW) pier to catch fire on 23 April. The fire was quickly extinguished. There is a strict No Smoking ban on the pier.
Piers enjoyed a sizzling Easter weekend in April. Visitors to Bournemouth consumed 90,000 ice creams between them. WESTON GRAND attracted 100,000 patrons in three days. The weather over the third Bank Holiday weekend, at the end of 30 May, was less settled.
WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND, our 2011 Pier Of The Year, celebrated the Royal Wedding on 29 April in style. The event was covered live by ITV’s Daybreak, which paid for free breakfasts for the first 100 people to turn up. HRH The Princess Royal is due to officially reopen the pier on 25 July. The pier will be staging its own Air Show on 17 August, with performances from the Royal Artillery Parachute Team, the Black Knights, the Breitling Wing Walkers and the Blades pilots association.
SOUTHSEA CLARENCE’s latest attraction is Pier Pressure, an extreme aerial high ropes course, while CLACTON has a new ride called Stella’s Revenge!
CROMER has been voted Best Loved Pier by the readers of Coast magazine, with SOUTHWOLD and BRIGHTON PALACE as runners-up. The award was presented to pier manager Ian Hall by TV presenter Michaela Strachan at the Country Living Fair in London.
SOUTHPORT Council has reduced its spending on the pier by £34,000 as part of its spending cuts. This entails the loss of two jobs. Beach cleaning will also be cut back.
Work on stabilising RAMSEY QUEENS (IOM) is under way (see feature in PIERS 96). Divers have been called in to assist engineers. The project is scheduled for completion in December.
Angry residents have complained about noise emanating from the nightclub on CLEETHORPES pier. After visits by Council officers a recommendation was put to the North-East Lincolnshire Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee in May that the club’s lessee James Cowper be instructed to install noise limiters, that live performances should be banned and that the club’s closing time be changed from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m.
BLACKPOOL Pleasure Beach has banned customers from bringing their own packed lunches, ostensibly because it lacks seating facilities for families to eat them. Entrance costs £32 per family including all rides.
A study has revealed that the pier at SANTA MONICA in California will need $20 million in repairs over the next ten years. None of this money is covered by the revenues earned by the attraction. $10 million has already had to be spent in repairs to the ageing structure. The pier was expected to re-open in July after being closed for two years. Owners City Hall have been examining ways of generating more income. Bids have been invited to run a catering facility in the 1920s building situated at the pier head.
The NPS’s Anthony Wills visited a number of piers on Germany’s Baltic Coast in May including Binz, Goeren and Sellin on Rugen and Usedom islands. All can be reached by vintage train. There is a possibility of a Society trip to the region in the future.
The Metro newspaper, which is distributed free outside railway stations in major conurbations, had a stunning picture of the newly restored cliff railway and pier at SALTBURN in its issue dated 26 April.
BBC1’s popular The One Show on 13 May contained a feature about presenter Danny Baker’s childhood, with clips of homemade movies showing him and his father enjoying themselves on BRIGHTON PALACE pier. The former theatre (which “disappeared” in 1986) was clearly visible in the background.
BBC2’s Britain’s Secret Seas on 29 May investigated the native marine life underneath BRIGHTON PALACE pier. The pier welcomed 4.5 million visitors in 2010.
The new series of Coast on BBC2 kicked off on 5 June in Belgium, including BLANKENBERGE pier and the coastal tram on which the NPS party rode during their trip to Ostend in 2009.
The ITV1 drama series Injustice, screened on 6-11 June, was filmed in SOUTHWOLD and featured numerous shots of the pier.
The launch of CROMER pier’s Seaside Special, now in its 34th year, on 8 June received widespread coverage including features on Sky TV and a picture in the Daily Telegraph. The show opened on 18 June and runs until 17 September. There are two different programmes, one entitled New York City Lights and the other Radio Days. Tickets may be obtained from the Box Office on 01263 512495. Elsewhere, the theatres on GREAT YARMOUTH BRITANNIA and WEYMOUTH piers both feature appearances in August by The Searchers, Jim Davidson, Joe Pasquale, Paul Zerdin and Jimmy Carr.
Coinslot International, the trade magazine for operators of fairgrounds and amusement arcades, carried a Seaside Amusements supplement in its issue of May 13-19, which also contained a review of the year in piers written by the NPS’s Anthony Wills.
The May/June issue of the trade magazine InterPark contained a major piers feature, Riding The Storm, with comments from Anne Martin (Brighton Palace), Ian Hall (Cromer), Linda Strong (Clevedon), Kevin Scott (Eastbourne), John Bollom (Mumbles), William Mitchell (Skegness) and Kerry Michael (Weston-super-Mare Grand), plus the Society. There was also a separate article to mark the 150th anniversary of Southsea Clarence.
The June issue of Welsh Coast had BANGOR pier on its front cover and carried a comprehensive and very well illustrated survey of Welsh piers by the NPS’s Chris Wyatt inside.
The Daily Telegraph magazine of 11 June had a six page spread of piers photographs by Simon Roberts with no mention of the National Piers Society. But the Society was quoted in piece about BOGNOR REGIS written by the Deputy Editor of Country Life, which was published in the Telegraph on 24 June.
The editorial team on Coast magazine looked through their family photo albums in the July issue to recall childhood visits to the seaside. Editor Clare Gogerty uncovered a picture of herself with her brother and their parents walking down WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK pier in 1964 after disembarking from the P & O vessel Glengower operating out of Cardiff. Elsewhere in the issue WESTON GRAND was chosen as the Number One fun attraction for kids, and there’s an update on the Great Pier Promenade.
A report by the Centre for Regional Economic & Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University has found that seaside tourism is comparable to the telecommunications industry and larger than aerospace, the motor industry, pharmaceuticals or steel in terms of employment.
VisitBritain and VisitEngland have had their budgets cut by 33% over the next three years and the Regional Development Agencies have been abolished. The Prime Minister has said that he would like domestic tourism to rise from 35% to 50%.
And finally: Bottles with messages inside them launched by Box Office staff on CROMER pier landed on beaches in Kent 190 miles away. Two of the six bottles, containing adverts for the resort’s summer show Seaside Special and a postcard saying “hello” in Dutch, French and German, turned up a fortnight later at Broadstairs and Whitstable.
(Thanks to Michael Bevis, Abi Goodwin, Daphne Lewis, Tim Mickleburgh, Kenneth Shenton, Lucie Tutton, J. Whibley, Ken Wisdom, Mike Wood & Chris Wyatt for their contributions)