Compiled by Anthony Wills
Official: Llandudno pier’s landing stage to be restored
Hard on the heels of the Society’s AGM visit to LLANDUDNO pier in May came the welcome news that funding has been found to restore its landing stage, which had been closed in 2006. A £200,000 grant from energy company RWE NPower Renewables, who operate an offshore wind farm, has kick-started the renovation programme. The Gwynt y Mor Tourism Fund is also contributing towards the project, along with Conwy County Council. Blackpool based company Six Piers Ltd., who own the pier, were unable to afford the reinstatement cost. Pier manager Simon Mason commented: “This is hugely exciting, especially as we had almost given up hope of being able to get the work done.” It is hoped to begin a regular steamer service between Llandudno and Liverpool, operated by p.s. Waverley and other vessels, as well as welcoming cruise ships. Work has already begun and could be completed by the end of October.
Local authority buys Colwyn Bay Victoria
Conwy Council purchased COLWYN BAY VICTORIA in March from the Crown Estate with the aid of a £36,000 grant from the Welsh Government. But although this might have been seen to add weight to the bid for £4.9 million of Heritage Lottery funding towards restoration, it was turned down. The decision to buy the pier was criticised by local MP David Jones, who said the Minutes of the Council meeting should have been made public. Steve Hunt is still claiming ownership of the pier and the matter is going the Crown Court.
Herne Bay pier reopens
HERNE BAY pier reopened on 3 June, sadly a miserable wet day, in the presence of about 2,000 local residents. There are no buildings on the structure as the former sports pavilion has been removed, leaving a space for summer activities organised by the Herne Bay Pier Trust, which was set up by the pier’s owners Canterbury City Council in July 2008. These include music, markets, roller skating and cricket and football coaching sessions, plus stalls for drinks, snacks and sweets. The Trust is appealing for more local residents to become members and get involved. Their annual subscription is £10. Payment can be made online by PayPal (visit www.hernebaypiertrust.co.uk )
Council “kickstarts” the Brighton West i-Tower with a multi-million pound loan
Brighton & Hove Council is controversially making a £14 million loan to enable construction to begin on the 360 ft. i-Tower in front of BRIGHTON WEST pier. Work is now expected to commence next spring. The tower is expected to attract around 750,000 visitors a year and create around 150 new jobs. When it opens the Big Wheel adjacent to the PALACE pier entrance will be removed.
Southend’s pier head cultural centre opens for business
The long-awaited Cultural Centre on SOUTHEND pier was officially opened on 18 July. An Open Day was held earlier in the month to coincide with the Olympic torch passing through the town. The building was constructed in Tilbury and towed down to the pier head, where it was erected. It is hoped that this new amenity will help double the number of visitors to the pier, at present around 350,000 a year. The centre includes the Galley Cafe and space for conferences, exhibitions and product launches as well as performances. Events already planned include Polish Polonaise on the Pier (a simultaneous performance event with SOPOT pier in Poland), a comedy festival, a jazz concert and a Punch & Judy festival. m.v. Balmoral will be operating from the pier during the opening weeks, allowing visitors arriving by boat to view the new building.
All systems “go” at Mumbles
Work on restoring MUMBLES pier has commenced with the demolition of the pier head and the erection of a new boathouse to house the RNLI’s state of the art Tamar class lifeboat, due for delivery in 2013. The cost is estimated at £9.5 million and the project will take approximately 18 months to complete. The pier has been closed to the public since January. A jack-up barge arrived at the pier head to begin removing sections of the pier necessary to start the piling works. Poor weather, extreme tide levels and the need to protect nesting kittiwakes living under the pier, are all contributing to the difficulties of the operation. Early next year the pier owners AMECO will start removing the pier stem (the main length of decking), working from the seaward end to the shore. The stanchions will remain but the superstructure will be replaced. In the longer term there are plans for a landing stage for water craft. There will be a larger boardwalk area at the shore end of the pier. The cost is estimated at £2.5 million: raising this sum is largely dependent on the construction of 27 foreshore flats and an 80-room headland hotel. Local residents and businesses, who had previously objected to the plans, are now broadly welcoming the redevelopment schemes.
A new pier for Felixstowe?
The owners of FELIXSTOWE pier have announced ambitious plans to build a futuristic structure at an estimated cost of £15 million. The new pier would be double the length of the existing structure and feature a bowling centre, cafe and restaurant looking out to sea, an observation tower with views of shipping entering and leaving Felixstowe port and a function suite seating 325 people. A similar scheme in 1996 failed to materialize. The pier originally opened in 1905 to a length of 2,973 ft., the third longest in the UK. A 3.5.ft. gauge three car electric tramway transported passengers to the pier head. This was suspended at the outbreak of World War II when the pier was sectioned, and never re-started. For the past fifteen years the decking beyond the amusement building has been closed to the public on safety grounds.
Disgruntled fishermen demonstrate at Lowestoft South
Protestors have vented their anger about a new barrier at LOWESTOFT SOUTH Pier which it is claimed blocks access for disabled fishermen’s cars, although business vehicles and the emergency services can still enter. More than a dozen disabled people descended on the pier early on 1 June where they temporarily blocked entry to delivery lorries and carried out a four-and-a-half-hour peaceful protest overseen by police. A spokesman for Waveney District Council said access needed to be controlled for safety reasons..
A group of unnamed Chinese investors are reported to be interested in buying the 900 ft. long SCHEVENINGEN pier in Holland, which has been put up for sale by its owners the Van der Valk family following continuing losses and what they describe as “intransigence” on the part of the local council. The original pier opened in 1900 to a length of 1,140 ft. It had a pavilion at the head in which musical performances took place. The pavilion was used by German forces during World War II for storage. But in 1943 they systematically destroyed the pier and its replacement was not opened until 1961. The Van der Valk family acquired it in 1991 for one Dutch guilder. They planned to build a hotel but a survey found that the supports were not strong enough.
The VENDEE pier at the Atlantic coastal resort of La Tranche sur Mer (France), destroyed in a storm two years ago, is being rebuilt.
CCTV is being installed on BUSSELTON pier (Western Australia) in an effort to stamp out increasing anti-social behaviour, which includes taking dogs on to the jetty, camping, lighting fires and stuffing fish guts into hard-to-clean places. The pier reopened in February 2011 following extensive refurbishment costing over $Aus 26 million (approx. £18 million) which included a new underwater observatory and pier tram.
PALANGA pier in Lithuania has been renamed the Friendship Pier in recognition of the country’s close links with its neighbouring Baltic states Latvia and Estonia. The original structure opened in 1888 to receive visits from p.s. Phoenix bringing holidaymakers, food and goods from Liepaja. Over the years it was damaged by storms and eventually, in 1998, a new L-shaped pier of 1,410 ft. was built.
BLANKENBERGE pier in Belgium, visited by NPS members in 2010, has opened a new interactive exhibition entitled Storms. Visit www.belgiumpier.be
A man was captured on film using a wind created by a tropical storm nicknamed Debby to kite-surf over REDINGTON pier in Florida, USA on 27 June. The video was uploaded onto YouTube and has since been viewed in excess of 500,000 times.
A headless torso wrapped in a plastic bag was discovered by a group of foreign students on the beach between SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE pier and the Blue Reef Aquarium on the afternoon of 3 July. Police launched a murder inquiry and sealed off the area while they searched for other body parts. They said there was a possibility that the body had been washed ashore by the incoming tide. A post mortem showed that the unidentified male had been subjected to a sustained and violent attack but at present the exact cause of death has not been determined.
The owners of WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND, brother and sister Kerry and Michelle Michael, have both been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in recognition of their achievement in restoring the structure following the fire in October 2008.
A new cafe, The Deckhouse, has been opened in one of the pavilions on ST ANNES pier, replacing an amusement arcade. It follows the completion of steelwork repairs to the structure. The pier suffered major fires in 1974 and 1982 which destroyed its Floral Pavilion and severed the connection to the landing jetty. The cafe was opened in time to welcome a large influx of visitors attending the Open Golf Championship at Lytham St Annes from 15-22 July.
The Vintage Slot Machine Museum on the end of SOUTHPORT pier is moving from the pier head pavilion to BLACKPOOL NORTH. This has been caused by a change of concessionaire.
The Vale of Glamorgan Council has clamped down on the practice of leaving floral tributes on PENARTH pier. An increasing number of bouquets and wreaths had begun to appear next to the brass plaques which have helped pay for the maintenance of the pier. Meanwhile there has been a change in leadership at Penarth Arts & Crafts Ltd., which has been raising money for the restoration of the pier’s pavilion. Paul Twamley has succeeded Maggie Knight, who is returning to her former home in Australia. A showroom explaining the plans for the pavilion has opened opposite the pier.
A number of community groups have urged Portsmouth City Council to buy SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE pier after its owner said he was losing money. The structure is decaying and visitors are no longer allowed to access the decking beyond the Pavilion, though an exception is being made for fishermen.
The REDCAR Pier Association is on its way to achieving its goal of 500 members each donating £10 towards its aim of rebuilding a traditional pier on or near the site of the one which was demolished in 1981. The local Council has already committed itself to a 240ft high vertical pier as part of its seafront regeneration, but the Association’s Acting Chairman Carl Conway has said that Redcar without a traditional pier is like Redcar without fish and chips and that with Teesside’s steel-making and engineering expertise there is no better place to build one.
Licensing restrictions on CLEETHORPES pier have been eased including the age limit for entry to the Pavilion, which has been lowered from 21 to 16 during the day and 18 at night (on production of ID).
SOUTHEND’s mile and a third long pier was the inspiration for a cake welcoming budget airline Easyjet’s new base at the town’s airport, which is now served by its own railway station on the main line from London Liverpool Street. Scheduled services to various Spanish holiday destinations began on 1 April.
The owner of BURNHAM-ON-SEA pier is in dispute with Sedgemoor District Council. The Council had ordered the removal of a conservatory type building on the pier forecourt (used as a sweet shop) because it was deemed to be out of keeping and should have had planning permission. Louise Parkin, whose family have run the pier for 44 years, said that the building was a permitted development. She said the confectionery sales had been subsidising the losses in the amusement arcade for four years. Local residents have signed a petition in support of the building.
The Society’s Chairman Tim Phillips presented the 2012 Pier Of The Year award to SWANAGE pier on 12 April.
The HASTINGS Pier & White Rock Trust held its AGM on 4 May. The Trust’s new Chief Executive made a presentation outlining progress to date and plans for when the pier had been formally handed over by Hastings Council. The promenade in front of the derelict structure was also the focus for the closing event of this year’s British Beach Week, organised by cottages4you. It was a well supported Pier Party on 2 June, the start of the Diamond Jubilee weekend. Later that month the Trust organised an exhibition of third year Brighton University students’ interpretations of the renovation and redesign plans for the pier put forward by the winning architectural firm drMM.
North Somerset Council agreed at the end of June to contribute £650,000 towards the cost of maintenance works on CLEVEDON pier. The remaining £150,000 will come from the Clevedon Pier Trust’s reserves. The work involves repairing and repainting the Grade I listed structure’s ironwork to prevent rust. The Trust is organising a number of activities to raise money towards the cost of its new visitor centre. These include art exhibitions in the Toll House Gallery, a skittles challenge on 14 July and children’s activities throughout August with treasure trails, dressing up days and walks and talks. The Pier Trust will be submitting its second round application for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund in August.
An exhibition entitled Blackpool: Wonderland Of The World opened at the new Quadriga Gallery on the first and second floors of London’s Wellington Arch on 4 July, and runs until 27 August. The exhibition, organised by English Heritage in association with Blackpool Council, focuses on the Tower and Winter Gardens with many architectural drawings, historic photographs and two short videos. Of particular interest are a collection of posters for summer season shows featuring stars such as George Formby, Norman Evans, Morecambe & Wise, plus one-night Sunday concerts starring various 1960s pop groups and two legendary performers, Marlene Dietrich and Bob Hope. Incredibly there are no mentions of the resort’s three piers, trams, Grand Theatre or Pleasure Beach. Excellent views may be obtained from the east and west-facing balconies of the Wellington Arch. The exhibition is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Paul Charalambous has been appointed as the new general manager of WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND pier. He has worked in the hospitality business in and around Weston for many years. The pier supported Armed Forces Day this year by offering unlimited free rides to serving armed forces personnel and their immediate families over the weekend of 23/24 June. On 23/24 July it held its annual Air Show. Among those taking part were the Red Arrows, the Royal Artillery Parachute Team, The Blades Air Display Team and the Breitling Wing Walkers. There was also a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight organised by the RAF. On 23 September a Half Marathon race will start from the pier.
BURNHAM-ON-SEA pier also supported Armed Forces Day by giving a 33% discount on all food and drink to all serving personnel.
Is this the wettest summer on record?
After almost a month of continuous rainfall in April the UK enjoyed well above average temperatures at the end of May, with the thermometer at BOURNEMOUTH rising to 28.5C (83F) on the 26th. The Independent celebrated the fine week with a large picture on 27 May showing beachgoers next to SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE pier. The rain, however, returned with a vengeance a week later, just in time for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The Daily Telegraph’s front page picture on 7 June of visitors to CLEVEDON pier sheltering under umbrellas perfectly captured the British bulldog spirit. The wet weather continued throughout the month with extensive flooding in places. On 25 June the weather station opposite the pier at BOGNOR REGIS recorded nearly 7 inches of rain in 24 hours – almost the normal usual total for the entire month. The first signs of summer appeared across most of the country towards the end of July.
A recent survey has shown that the number of people retiring to coastal resorts such as BOURNEMOUTH and SOUTHWOLD is declining in favour of inland town and cities. Aside from social reasons, pensioners on fixed incomes, particularly in the south-east, are becoming unable to compete with London-based workers buying coastal properties as second homes.
The latest edition of the Rough Guide to Britain lists the Under The Pier show of quirky amusement machines on SOUTHWOLD pier in a higher position than heavyweight attractions such as the British Museum and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. The Southwold attraction, invented by Tim Hunkin, is currently celebrating its tenth birthday. The National Piers Society’s 2013 Annual General Meeting will be held on the pier on 8 June.
Please support the Waverley and Balmoral sailing season this year. Between 5 July and 27 September the ships will be sailing from PENARTH, CLEVEDON, SWANAGE, BOURNEMOUTH, RYDE (IOW) and YARMOUTH (IOW), WORTHING, SOUTHEND, GRAVESEND TOWN and SOUTHWOLD piers.
There are two Birdman Rallies this year, at BOGNOR REGIS on 4/5 August and WORTHING on 18/19 August. Why not go along and join in the fun?
The annual SALTBURN Festival of Folk Music, Dance and Song takes place on 10-12 August. Hopefully there will be dancing on the pier!
The Society was represented by Frances White, Tim Phillips and Anthony Wills at the annual Heritage Book Fair held in Farringdon, City of London on 28 June.
The Executive Committee held a strategy meeting in Birmingham on 21 July to discuss ways of easing its members’ excessive workload caused, among other things, by an increasing volume of enquiries via the Society’s website.
A reminder for your diary: next year’s AGM will be held in SOUTHWOLD on Saturday 8 June. Accommodation in the resort is very limited so it would be wise to make arrangements in the near future. The popular group dinner will be held after the AGM and the pier visit and it is hoped to run a coach trip to Lowestoft on the Sunday to visit the town’s two piers.
A reader’s letter in Radio Times issue dated 17-23 March was illustrated by a fine picture of CLEVEDON pier.
Towards the end of March actors Daniel Mays and Sheridan Smith filmed scenes on BLACKPOOL NORTH pier for the forthcoming TV drama Mrs Biggs, about the wife of the Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs, due to be shown on ITV1 in the autumn. The cast and crew then flew to Australia which is standing in for Brazil, where Biggs took refuge for many years.
Holiday Showdown show on BBC1 on Bank Holiday Monday 9 April featured an unhappy family walking down GREAT YARMOUTH BRITANNIA pier
Journalist Rowan Pelling waxed lyrical in the Daily Telegraph of 10 April about her childhood visits to BRIGHTON and in particular the PALACE pier, where she used to ride the helter-skelter and the dodgem cars. Many years later she returned to the resort for a hen party weekend and lost a treasured citrine ring through the pier’s decking.
The Scottish Sunday Post ran a large piers feature in its 27 May issue with pictures of BRIGHTON, BLACKPOOL, DUNOON, HASTINGS, SALTBURN and, most prominently, SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE.
NPS chairman Tim Phillips was interviewed concerning the VICTORIA pier on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show on 29 May when it came live from COLWYN BAY, part of a series of Outside Broadcasts following the progress of the Olympic torch.
Four piers were briefly glimpsed in BBC2’s 90-minute observational documentary Britain In A Day (the day in question being 12 November 2011), shown on 11 June: WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND, COLWYN BAY VICTORIA, BRIGHTON PALACE and WORTHING.
And finally… the three-year old horse Mumbles Head has been in fine form of late with three successive wins, two at Perth (including the Perth Gold Cup where he came in at 4/1) and one at Market Rasen on 9 June!
Thanks to Kit Boot, Margaret Burgoine, Debbie Fox, Daphne Lewis and Tim Mickleburgh for their contributions.