Compiled by Anthony Wills
Fire destroys Eastbourne pier arcade
The Funtastic Pavilion (former Ballroom, dating from 1925) on EASTBOURNE pier was completely destroyed by fire during the afternoon of 31 July. The pier was safely evacuated in five minutes with no loss of life or injuries. The conflagration put the rest of the neck and pier head out of access, but thanks to the efforts of the fire services and the RNLI it did not spread to the rest of the structure. Up to 80 firefighters attended, pumping water on to the burning structure from the coast, the beach and from underneath. It was eventually brought under control shortly before 8pm, with around 30 firefighters staying at the scene overnight.
The cause of the fire is currently being treated as suspicious. The Prime Minister and George Osborne visited Eastbourne the following day and pledged up to £2 million to help the town’s tourism recover. Among the events scheduled for the seafront is the annual Airbourne display (14-17 August), for which the pier would normally have been packed with visitors.
The National Piers Society has expressed its regret to Christos Stylianous, the pier’s General Manager, pier owners Six Piers Ltd and Eastbourne’s MP Stephen Lloyd.
Hastings Council hit for compensation
HASTINGS Borough Council has been ordered to pay substantial compensation plus legal costs to Manolete Partners plc (proprietors of the now defunct Stylus Sports) for loss of business after the pier was closed on safety grounds in the summer of 2006. (See PIERS 82, 83, 84 and 86 for the background to this story.) The High Court had ruled in April last year that the Council was liable to pay compensation and on 7 May this year the Court of Appeal upheld their decision. The Court noted that the real culprit Ravenclaw is outside UK jurisdiction and therefore beyond the reach of any enforcement procedure. Hastings Council has said it has no reserve fund with which to pay the compensation therefore the money will have to come from other services in the town. It should however be noted that the restoration of the pier will not be affected, since the Hastings Pier Charity has already obtained the funds from other sources.
Colwyn Bay: the saga continues
The latest development in the long-running dispute over COLWYN BAY VICTORIA pier saw Steve Hunt (who still claims to be the legal owner) losing his application to have Conwy Council removed from further court proceedings. This was rejected by a judge sitting at Cardiff County Court on 18 June, who noted that the case was due to be heard on 6 August.
Mr Hunt said he would appeal to the High Court against the Welsh judge’s decision. He claims this could delay the High Court’s anticipated ruling in respect of ownership by up to a year. It is now six years since the dispute began. Meanwhile the Victoria Pier Trust has complained that Conwy Council has refused to enter into discussion about the pier. The Council has denied this but are now to be compelled to hold a meeting by John Griffiths, the Welsh minister for Culture & Sport.
No love for Southsea South Parade
Fred Nash, the co-owner of SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE pier, has said he“doesn’t care for it anymore” and that Portsmouth City Council was blocking the sale for which contracts had been exchanged but not completed. Urgent repairs to the Grade II listed structure, which is still boarded up, have not been carried out, but the mystery buyers have commissioned a structural survey to ascertain what is required. The South Parade Trust has obtained in excess of 6,000 signatures to a petition which has been submitted to the Council.
Totland Bay restoration halted by planning row
Restoration of TOTLAND BAY (IOW) pier has been suspended after planning officers said the levels of the cafe and car park would have to be raised by 750mm in order to provide future occupiers with a safe means of escape in the event of a storm or flood. A spokesman for the owners said this was impracticable as the cafe had been restored following the suspected arson attack in January 2013. They have agreed to strengthen the direct access point through the cafe to the proposed holiday unit at the pier head with a steel frame, employ a pier master and enhance links with the coastguard, but the Council is refusing to budge. Members of the NPS visited the pier during the AGM weekend.
Full steam ahead at Cleethorpes
The business consortium who leased CLEETHORPES pier in July last year have now purchased it and are planning to transform its iconic pavilion into a conference and entertainment centre, with the intention of applying for a licence to conduct weddings. But Chairman Bryan Huxford emphasized that without grants from sources such as the Regional Growth Fund the works could not be carried out in their entirety.
Visit www.thepiercleethorpes.co.uk for further information.
Paignton’s new owners promise improvements
PAIGNTON pier has been sold for an undisclosed sum to Stade Developments of Hastings, who run amusement arcades in Hastings and Hunstanton. Speaking on behalf of the new owners Henry Moreton said: “The pier is in good hands, as it is our intention to bring it up to the high standards of our other operations by investing heavily in new equipment and refurbishments”.
Weston Grand imposes pier toll….
The owners of WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND suddenly imposed a pier toll of £1 per person (children in buggies excepted) on 4 April, although season tickets costing £5 and valid until May 2015 are available. The immediate reaction on social media was one of anger but the owners have said the charge is necessary to fund essential maintenance. The neighbouring pier at CLEVEDON charges £1.80 but is owned by a charitable trust and has no amusements to bring in income. Other piers still charging entrance tolls are BANGOR, BOURNEMOUTH, HYTHE, SOUTHEND and SWANAGE,
…and celebrates a birthday
The GRAND celebrated its 130th birthday on 7 June. Visitors were invited to have a go at riding Penny Farthing bicycles and there were also Punch & Judy shows, face painting in the Pitstop Cafe and an exhibition of old photos and videos of the pier, some of them very rare, in the Coral Room. Somerset favourites The Wurzels performed the previous evening and there was also a cider festival.
Mumbles opens its gates briefly
A limited number of visitors were allowed onto MUMBLES pier on 5 May for the first time in three years. The lucky ones were able to inspect the new lifeboat station at the pier head. The pier will close again in the autumn to allow restoration to continue.
Rock Reef opens at Bournemouth
The Rock Reef attraction in the former theatre on BOURNEMOUTH pier opened on 24 May. Until 4 July local residents were offered half price entry, normally £25 for adults and £19.50 for children. Rock Reef offers three exciting experiences: 25 different ‘Clip ’n’ Climb’ walls, an aerial obstacle course and 65m of pier caves. There is also a vertical drop slide, “leap of faith” jump and a cafe. Outside the building is the new zip line, which opened in August. Lessees Openwide International say the development has created almost 50 new jobs, including five apprentice positions. For further information visit www.rockreef.net
News from our Pier Of The Year 2014
PENARTH Arts & Crafts have appointed a new Chairman, Professor Tony Hazell, to succeed Paul Twamley. Mr Hazell, who has lived in the town since 1986, has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2012. The Trust have also asked local residents to contribute photos, memorabilia and anecdotes for an exhibition about the fascinating history of the Pier Pavilion, to be held in January. Since opening in 1928 the Pavilion has served as a music hall, cinema, theatre, dance hall, night club, snooker hall and gym club. Alice Turner, fundraising and sponsorship manager of the Pavilion, said: “We want people to come forward with photographs, post cards and stories about the pavilion which we can put together to form a living archive”.
The Pavilion is now licensed to conduct marriages. On 24 May Lee Williams and Kristy Mellin became the first couple to be married on the pier, 14 years after they first met during a night out in Cardiff. They tied the knot in front of 70 guests. 36-year old Lee, who works in aircraft maintenance at Cardiff Rhoose Airport, said the day could not possibly have gone better. He added:“Of course we were hoping that the weather would be sunny but the rain didn’t ruin it all”.
The Pavilion added another “string to its bow” when a Chamber Music Festival was held there on 11-13 July.
The water lift down to SALTBURN pier celebrated its 130th birthday on 28 June. To mark the occasion Redcar & Cleveland Council, who own both the lift and the pier, arranged for commemorative tickets to be issued by staff dressed in authentic Victorian costumes.
The owners of BLACKPOOL NORTH pier have spent more than £600,000 on repairs and improvements after it was devastated by storms last winter. Theatre manager Denis Askham says he has received many requests from promoters wishing to present their shows in the newly restored theatre. Comedian Joey Blower is celebrating 21 years of performing his unique style of comedy on the pier. At the close of the summer season in September the annual World Fireworks Championships will be held. So-called “Pyro-music” has become an art form in its own right. Sweden kicks off on 5 September followed by teams from Canada, Austria and the UK. Meanwhile Blackpool Council has disposed of its 6,000 seafront deckchairs, citing diminishing demand.
The Friends of HERNE BAY pier secured a grant in May from the Kent Community Foundation to build 17 new beach huts (including a large tea room) and add the necessary plumbing. The Trust has also applied to the Big Lottery Fund for a grant in 2015 to enable the construction of a canopy, stage, further windbreaks and public toilets. A great many activities have been taking place during the summer to raise money and provide a much needed attraction on the town’s seafront. The Trust’s aims are Reclaim, Regenerate, Rebuild and it is certainly one of the most active in the UK.
Commercial boat operators in BEAUMARIS are trying to dissuade the pier’s owners Anglesey County Council from levying a tax of 21p per passenger. The Council claims the charge is necessary to pay for ongoing maintenance to the pier. There are no plans to levy the charge on nearby piers such as Menai Bridge.
Two artists from Creative Waves, which was set up to provide art in the community, have set up an outdoor gallery on WORTHING pier. It features the work of over 100 artists plus 40 panels devoted to the centenary of the start of World War I.
There was great excitement in CLEVEDON in mid-March when top-selling boy-band One Direction filmed the video for their new single You and I on the pier. The video consists of each member walking along a seemingly endless deck and morphing into one another.
Radio 4’s Saturday Live over the Easter weekend featured Jon Bounds and Danny Smith from Birmingham. who had visited all the piers in England & Wales in two weeks and written a blog about it. Presenters Andrea Catherwood and Anita Anand (or more likely their researchers) had clearly done their homework on the Society’s website, spoiled by their insistence in calling the NPS the “British Piers Association”.
Friday 2 May’s edition of the new ITV breakfast show Good Morning Britainincluded a live report from MUMBLES.
An advert for Volkswagen cars shown on ITV1 in May was filmed in LLANDUDNO and featured the pier.
Journalist Christopher Beanland took a comprehensive look at piers around the country in an article inspired by the 200th anniversary of the opening of RYDE pier in July and published in the “I” newspaper on 3 June. He has childhood memories of spilling orange juice on his way to BLACKPOOL CENTRAL and being amazed by the steepness of the lifeboat ramp at CROMER’s pier head.
Our esteemed webmaster Chris Wyatt featured prominently in a survey of online streaming services to access feature films and past TV programmes, filmed on PENARTH pier and shown in The One Show on BBC1 on 12 June.
Two weeks later, on 23 June, crowds flocked to the pier to catch a glimpse of Welsh football star Gareth Bale filming a TV advert for BT. Gareth, the world’s most expensive footballer after his £85 million move to Real Madrid last summer, was seen doing football tricks on the pier and volleying balls into the sea. After filming he was happy to pose for photos before being ushered away by his entourage.
A major article by Andrew Plaice in the Sunday Express of 25 May lamented the disappearance of seaside variety shows, with comments from comedian Roy Hudd (who started his career on CLACTON pier in the 1950s) and former Black & White Minstrels singer Douglas Gorin, who spent long summer seasons at Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre (currently closed). Plaice himself spent his childhood summers in GREAT YARMOUTH, where his father ran a bingo hall. He became hooked on the shows on the BRITANNIA and WELLINGTON piers, often starring Russ Abbot and Freddie Starr. He did not forget to cite CROMER’s Seaside Special as an honourable and welcome exception to the trend.
In an article in the Daily Mail of 19 April entitled 50 Things To Do In the UK Before You Die (based on a survey of 1,000 adults conducted by Ask Jeeves) the Number One position was – to eat fish ‘n’ chips on a seaside pier! Second came “See Whales in Wales” and third was “Go to a Prom at the Royal Albert Hall”. “Try a deep fried Mars bar” came in at no. 32, well ahead of “Go to a recording of Britain’s Got Talent” at no. 45 and “Visit the Blackpool Illuminations” at no. 46.