Compiled by Anthony Wills and Simon Webster

Another pier up for sale

As briefly reported in October’s news the pier at WALTON-ON-THE-NAZE has been put on the market with a guide price of £2.5 million. The 2,610 ft. long structure (third longest in the UK) opened in 1898. The present owners bought it in 2005 and have invested large sums in keeping it up to date and in good condition. It is not known whether the new gaming tax proposals have led to their decision. At the time of writing no buyer has emerged for BRIGHTON PALACE, which was put up for sale at the end of June 2011.

Totland Bay reborn

The 130-year old pier at TOTLAND BAY (IOW) is being totally restored by Farnham Developments Ltd., who bought it from artist Derek Barran in 2010. They specialize in refurbishing and repairing historic properties in sought-after locations through good design and quality construction. The scheme, which has been approved by the Isle of Wight Council, involves the demolition of the existing café and its replacement by a large holiday letting complex. Public access to the restored pier and a new pier head recreational building will be guaranteed.

New hope for Colwyn Bay

A public consultation was held at the beginning of November to ascertain support for compulsory purchase by the local authority of the ailing VICTORIA pier at COLWYN BAY. As detailed on the Colwyn Bay page on this website, Shore Thing Ltd. has come up with a business plan to restore the derelict and dangerous structure. However Conwy Council’s cabinet, meeting on 21 November, while agreeing to the proposal, detailed the plan as “too ambitious”.

New proposals for Southsea South Parade

Redevelopment plans costing around £20 million have been unveiled by the owner of SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE. Speaking at a meeting of the East Southsea Neighbourhood Forum owner Fred Nash said his ambitions could rival those of WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND.

Cleethorpes reopens under new management

A new management has taken over the running of the chequered nightclub on CLEETHORPES pier after it was closed down by order of the police on 2 September. Reopening the building on 1 December director Alistair Clugston said he hoped to create 30 new jobs and restore the venue’s iconic status, in order to make the pier the envy of other resorts. Already local contractors have been employed to install 29,000 LED lights and re-lay the Canadian maple dance floor from the town’s now demolished and much missed Winter Gardens in the pier’s Tides restaurant.

More cash for Penarth

The charity Penarth Arts & Crafts Ltd. has received an award of £700,000 from the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) Programme towards its restoration plans for the town’s pier pavilion. CAT is a partnership scheme between the Welsh Government and the Big Lottery Fund which supports the transfer of public land and buildings from the public sector to community ownership. One stumbling block has now been overcome with the departure to new premises of the Gym Club that had been the main user of the pavilion in recent years.

New campaign to restore Felixstowe pier

The Ipswich Evening Star has launched a campaign to restore FELIXSTOWE pier to its former glory and approached the National Piers Society for guidance as to how heritage funding might be obtained to assist in so doing.

Gigantic aerial billboard for Brighton Palace?

Gap Daemon, a gap year travel website, has approached the present owners of BRIGHTON PALACE pier with a proposal to install a gigantic advertisement – measuring more than two acres – on the geodome at the pier head. The thinking behind the idea is that the pier is under the flight path for aircraft taking off from or landing at Gatwick Airport though the image could also be viewed virtually on Google Earth.

Overseas News

Work has commenced on replacing and repairing a large number of piles on the pier at MALIBU (California). Public access will be maintained during the works.

Maintenance work was carried out on ST KILDA pier in Melbourne (Australia) in November to strengthen the concrete crossheads, so that service vehicles can continue to access the structure.

Ambitious proposals to modernize the pier at REDONDO BEACH (California) have been announced as part of a $2 million waterfront revitalization scheme. The pier is to have a restored landing stage, a new hotel and greater bicycle access.

Other news

The life-blood of RYDE (IOW) pier is being put in jeopardy by motorists exceeding the newly imposed speed limit of 10 mph. Isle of Wight Radio has painted a picture of them being banned because the passage of speeding cars causes greater wear and tear on the recently renovated structure. Cars are not carried on the ferries from the pier head to Portsmouth but many passengers leave their cars parked there when crossing to the mainland. The trams which used to transport people down the 2,250ft. long pier ceased operating in 1969 and the train service from St Johns station to Pier Head is infrequent. If motorists are discouraged or even banned from driving down the pier then ferry loadings will be affected and future funding for upkeep will be reduced.

Openwide International has had its contract to run CROMER pier extended by a further five years by North Norfolk District Council. Aside from operating the Tides restaurant and Footprints gift shop Openwide produce the famous Seaside Special summer and Christmas shows plus a year-round programme of one-night stands in the Pavilion Theatre. Income from ticket sales in 2011 increased by 8%, while Tides took 40% more and Footprints 20%. The line-up for this year’s Seaside Special has already been announced. Leading the company will be comedy magician Dain Cordean, assisted by Ben Langley and the Seaside Special dancers. The show runs from 16 June to 29 September with special School’s Out matinees from 27 July to 31 August.

Two men from Birmingham undertook a tour of all the surviving British piers in September, starting at WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND. Danny Smith and Jon Bounds have been recording their experiences for a planned book entitled Pier Review (visit Advice was given by the Society.

At around the same time Coast magazine announced that the winner of their 2010 Great Pier Promenade Competition was Susan Mackie from North Yorkshire. Susan visited 52 piers and raised more than £1,000 for the Hastings Pier Trust.

Stephen Bournes, owner of SOUTHWOLD pier, joined a team of 35 motorcyclists in a gruelling 1,000 mile charity ride last October along South Africa’s so-called Wild Coast in aid of four charities including the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

Stabilisation work on RAMSEY QUEENS pier (IOM) was completed on schedule in November. New bracing bars have been fitted under the decking by marine engineers MPM Ltd. Divers cleared away the debris that had fallen from the pier over a period of time. The engineers found the 116- year old Victorian piles to be in excellent condition, confirming the opinion of Tim Wardley and Anthony Wills during their visit in 2009. The Friends of the Queen’s Pier will be stepping up pressure on the Isle of Man Parliament to proceed towards full restoration with a view to reopening the pier to visitors and reviving the fortunes of Ramsey.

EASTBOURNE pier has announced it will close earlier during the rest of the winter, except on club nights.

Simon Opie has been appointed Chief Executive of the HASTINGS Pier & White Rock Trust. A local man, Mr. Opie has previously worked for Madame Tussauds and EuroDisney in Paris. In December Hastings Borough Council issued offshore pier owner Ravenclaw Ltd. a repair notice giving them two months in which to carry out repairs. In the absence of any response the Council will issue a Compulsory Purchase Order which will release a promised £8 million Heritage Lottery grant. The necessary planning and Listed Building Consents are already in place. The Trust closed its seafront shop on 2 January. The shop, formerly Arthur Green’s menswear shop, had been leased by the Trust on a six month tenancy basis.

DUNOON pier in Argyll and Bute has had its Listed Building status upgraded to Category A (equivalent to Grade II* in England and Wales) by Historic Scotland. This makes it highly unlikely that the options for complete or partial demolition will be any longer considered by the local authority, which owns it. Following a well attended public exhibition in October plus a supportive statement by the National Piers Society, a draft pier study was presented to councillors for their consideration. This was drawn up following a full structural survey which indicated the need for repairs costing anything between £3.5 and £7 million. The pier needs to find a new role now that the Gourock ferry no longer berths there and the Waverley only in emergency.

A plan to build an 18 room hotel on the site of FLEETWOOD pier has been submitted to the local council by Simmo Developments. 40 bedrooms were originally planned but a smaller two storey development has been drawn up after objections by the local Civic Society and other bodies.

Plans to moor a 1930s steamship which has been rusting away at Tilbury since 2009 at SOUTHEND pier head have been scuppered after the ship’s owner accepted another offer.

Support appears to be growing for a plan to build a £15m “futuristic” pier on the waterfront at PLYMOUTH. The idea is to place the structure on the footprint of the HOE pier which was bombed in World War Two and finally demolished in 1953. City businessman and waterfront campaigner Tam Macpherson has said it would be a modern, eco-friendly, design built to “entertain and educate”. The five storey building might comprise a conference hall, shops and restaurants. Furthermore, and interestingly for purists, a berthing for vessels is being included. A wind-turbine would make the structure apt for these energy conscious times. The scheme is budgeted at £13-15 million and European grants would be sought once a business plan has been drawn up.

The inaugural meeting of the REDCAR Pier Association in December attracted more than 50 people interested in building a modern, environmentally sound structure to replace the one demolished in 1981. Redcar & Cleveland Council are already planning an 80ft vertical pier as the star attraction of a major seafront revamp. The next meeting of the Pier Association will be held in March.

It has been reported that there have been discussions regarding the reinstatement of a ferry service between BANGOR pier and Glyn Garth near the Menai Bridge. This however is highly unlikely to materialize before the National Piers Society holds its Annual General Meeting in neighbouring LLANDUDNO on 12 May.

Sefton Council, which owns SOUTHPORT pier, is considering tendering out its pavilion. Silcocks Leisure, who have operated the Funland Leisure Centre at the pier entrance for 28 years, have indicated that they might be interested in taking on the pier head attraction.

A young boy slipped through a gap in the fence on CLACTON pier on 15 October. The boy was rescued and the hole quickly repaired.

The Sunday Times magazine of 23 October featured a stunning double page centre-fold black and white shot of BLACKPOOL SOUTH pier caught in a storm. Earlier in the month the pier suffered a minor fire.

The first episode of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Great Britain shown on Channel 4 on 25 October came from SOUTHEND, which was no surprise considering he was allegedly conceived at the end of the pier in 1975!!

The change of policy at BLACKPOOL NORTH pier theatre seems to have borne fruit. Shows featuring Beverley Knight, Erasure and Juice sold out in November.

BBC4’s fascinating documentary Frank Skinner on George Formby, shown on 27 October, began and ended on BLACKPOOL NORTH pier.

BBC Radio 4 Extra on 17 November offered a welcome chance to listen to a 1974 episode of Dad’s Army in which the platoon are stuck on the end of the (sectioned) pier at “WALMINGTON-ON-SEA”.

Engineers were called in to assess the damage after a hole opened up in the floor of a disused bingo hall on FELIXSTOWE pier on 10 December.

The HERNE BAY Pier Trust organised a number of weekend events in the run-up to Christmas including an alpine grotto complete with Santa Claus, a craft and gift fair and live music in the evenings, all taking place on the space vacated by the removal of the sports pavilion. The Trust has been working with four of the town’s primary schools on an art exhibition and competition, sponsored by Southern Water. The children have produced some fantastic drawings, paintings and models in three categories – Living by the Sea, Sea Creatures and Cleaner Seas, as well as giving us their imaginative ideas of what they would like to see on the pier in the future. Prizes will be awarded in each group. The artworks are on display in the Pier Trust Gallery, Kings Hall Foyer on the seafront and other venues from 14-28 January. Judging will be in January with prizes awarded in each group.

SOUTHWOLD and BRIGHTON PALACE piers are among the contenders for Best Seaside Attraction in the winter edition of Coast magazine, which also contains some excellent images of ST ANNES pier.

CLEVEDON Pier Supporters’ Group are running a photographic competition with a coastal theme in aid of the pier. Shortlisted entries will be contacted by 24 February and the acclaimed Bristol photographer and author Clive Minnitt will announce the winner at a talk on 2 March.

And finally……Another pier went up in smoke on 15 November! A fire drill carried out on BRIGHTON PALACE caused a little public concern but passed off without incident.

(With thanks to Daphne Lewis, Fred Hodgson, Tim Mickleburgh, Adrian Partington and Kenneth Shenton for their contributions)