Compiled by Anthony Wills & Tim Wardley
Another three piers go under the hammer
STOP PRESS Llandudno pier has been sold for the full asking price to the locally based company Tor Prince Leisure Group.
Blackpool-based company Cuerden Leisure have put three of their four piers on the market, leaving only EASTBOURNE in their portfolio. They are asking £4.8 million for BLACKPOOL CENTRAL, £3.3 million for BLACKPOOL SOUTH and £4.5 million for LLANDUDNO. The piers, which together bring in £1.6 million annually in revenue from concessions, are available separately or together. LLANDUDNO is the only Listed Building, meaning that a new owner can make any changes at Blackpool that they might wish.
Encouraging new Government initiatives for helping seaside towns
The Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) has announced awards totalling £36 million aimed at boosting regeneration in coastal areas. Of particular interest to readers of this journal is an award of nearly £2 million to BLACKPOOL to create new displays for its world famous Illuminations. HASTINGS Council receives £500,000 to enhance the town’s seafront and visitor attractions, including landscaping, the introduction of bikes for hire, improved signage and information on walks and trails. The Trust running the MV Balmoral receives £344,000 (it has already raised substantial amounts through funding appeals) towards the cost of repair and refurbishment in order to bring the vessel back into service, with renewed emphasis on visits to heritage coastline areas and historic piers and ports in England and Wales: this award will create 42 new jobs. The North Norfolk Railway based at Sheringham near Cromer is receiving £497,000 towards improvements in order to cater for increased visitor numbers, and other resorts to benefit from the awards are EASTBOURNE, WORTHING, GRAVESEND and GREAT YARMOUTH.
In a further announcement at the end of February the CCF said that it was setting up a £3 million Coastal Revival Fund to help unlock the economic potential of hard-to-tackle buildings, facilities and amusements such as piers, lidos and promenades. It hopes that modest grants can be used to get projects under way by funding initial work that will encourage private business and charitable organizations to contribute. The aim is to enable seaside towns become year round destinations that people will want to live and work in. The BOGNOR REGIS, HERNE BAY and SWANAGE Pier Trusts have welcomed the initiative, which was spearheaded by the National Piers Society in its meetings with the Coastal Communities Minister. The Society looks forward to working closely with the Coastal Community Teams that are being set up around the country.
Private/public partnership for Southend?
The Leader of SOUTHEND Council, Ron Woodley, has told local media that two or three private operators have expressed interest in leasing certain attractions on the town’s pier. Building a restaurant at the pier head is among the ideas that are being floated. The Council has confirmed its intention to retain ownership of the structure but has announced that, in order to increase revenue in the immediate term, it is increasing the pier train fares from £4 to £4.30 return. 320,000 people visited the pier last year, the highest number for some time. New signage has been installed at the pier entrance and a host of events are planned on the pier this year including art exhibitions, Shakespeare plays, live music and real ale & craft events.
Encouraging visit by HLF inspectors to Colwyn Bay Victoria Pier
At a meeting on 29 January the COLWYN BAY Victoria Trust urged Conwy Council to abandon an earlier decision to demolish the pier. The Trust wants Conwy to back its bid for £9.6m in Heritage Lottery cash as part over an overall £12m requirement to save the structure. The Council has previously estimated a full pier restoration would cost around £15m. It says the Trust made its Lottery bid without consulting it and it would cost an additional Ј850,000 and “displace other schemes”. It would also need to set aside £100,000 a year for “security, repair and insurance costs”. It also fears handing over the pier to a Trust because it could end up back on the Council’s books if the community group were unable to finance it.
A delegation from the Heritage Lottery Fund visited the pier and town on 27 February and were greeted by around 170 campaigners and supporters including Jess Steele, consultant to the Pier Trust, hoping for the £9.6m grant to restore the pier as an entertainment attraction. Ian Morrison, HLF’s Head of Historic Environment, indicated the delegation were impressed with the community support for the pier, while cautioning that the current round of applications are extremely competitive. The bid is due to be considered during a HLF board meeting in April, with an announcement anticipated around 8 May.
Pressure groups propose to unite over saving Weston Birnbeck Pier
The Let’s Save BIRNBECK Pier has set up a new committee and secured support from the Friends Of The Old Pier Society (FOPS), North Somerset Council, National Piers Society, MP John Penrose and businessman Richard Nightingale, among others.
Let’s Save Birnbeck Pier society has met with FOPS’ chairman Charles McCann and provisionally agreed to merge the two groups under the name Birnbeck Regeneration Trust. It would then seek charitable status for its mammoth fundraising drive.
CNM Estates now owns the pier and its Chairman Mr Wahid Samady told the Weston Mercury in September he was committed to restoring the site although conceded he would be ‘willing to step aside’, if a ‘credible alternative’ was found. Should the Society’s planned offer be refused, it has asked North Somerset Council to issue a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to put the site into public ownership. A similar strategy was successfully carried out in Hastings in 2012 because its owners did not do enough to repair its pier after a fire.
Deputy Council Leader Elfan Apfel Rees said the authority will do all it can to help. He added: “I have personally offered to use my own fundraising and Heritage Lottery Funding knowhow to help – just as I recently offered support to the Trop Trust (Tropicana Redevelopment Group). In both cases a sensible and viable business case is needed.”
“In the case of the pier. Even after restoration, annual maintenance costs are likely to run a £100,000 per annum and volunteers will be essential to reduce overheads, as it seems unlikely you could produce enough income to pay employees to run the pier. Obtaining a CPO is a long and difficult road, as there are a number of legal and procedural hurdles you have to clear, which take months to get past and at considerable expense to the taxpayer. However, if there was a substantial Trust in place, with a sensible business plan and kick-start money in the bank that the pier could immediately be transferred to, then I’d certainly recommend to the Council we investigate a CPO closely. It would be much better though if a suitable arrangement could be agreed between the Trust and the pier owner. I believe the pier is salvageable – maybe not the now collapsing jetty – but the main trusses need urgent temporary repairs pending longer term restoration. Whether the new owner is prepared to invest in this is a matter for him.”
Mr Lock said the Society is working on a business plan to formalize its approach to CNM Estates and funding groups. He said: “We have been told we would need to raise about £4 million and lottery funding would cover the rest. We think it will take at least two to three years to get the funding.”
Mr Nightingale, who has agreed to help put a business plan together, said: “Birnbeck pier is a very important part of the town’s heritage. These issues though become very complicated, especially when the property involved is in the hands of a private developer. I have been so impressed with the enthusiasm and dedication of the group and I firmly believe that residents sticking together can place this issue at the top of the agenda.”
Princes Regeneration Trust conference held in Blackpool
A highly successful and informative conference and workshop was held on 25 February in BLACKPOOL, attended by National Piers Society Vice-Chairman Tim Phillips. Held under the pseudonym of BRICK (Building Investment, Resources & Community Knowledge), the conference presented the opportunity for representatives of all aspects of the heritage and leisure community to come together and share information, gain knowledge from heritage professionals and learn about new opportunities for regenerating entertainment venues including theatres, cinemas, piers and music halls. Tim Philips was joined by NPS Chairman Tim Wardley to discuss the findings of the meeting and how they may be adopted and used to further the aims of the Society. An opportunity was also taken to inspect Blackpool North Pier and the beautifully restored Winter Gardens complex.
Southsea South Parade Trust holds public consultation meeting
A consultation meeting was held on 21 February and attended by NPS Executive Committee members Anya Chapman and Joy Surtees. Present to offer her support was Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt MP, and the event was attended by over 300 people who all filled in questionnaires and engaged in round table discussions about what they would like to see included in the redevelopment of the pier. Encouragingly, the new owners are actively working to reopen the pier frontage, with evidence of much remedial work taking place, with the entire structure restored by 2016. The Trust intends to work closely with the new owners of the pier to ensure a sustainable future for the structure.
Redcar replacement hopes dashed but fight for pier goes on
The Redcar Pier Association, which was established in November 2013, has folded. In a statement issued on 8 February the Trustees said that despite efforts to attract and retain more volunteers to work for RPA, participation had shrunk to four following the departure of a key member, and it had become unsustainable. In line with the Association’s Articles of Business monies held within the community bank account will be distributed to a group or groups with similar charitable aims.
In a surprise development however, Liberal Democrat members on Redcar & Cleveland Council’s new cabinet have asked for a report on the feasibility of providing a traditional seaside pier at Redcar. Chris Abbot, Councillor with portfolio for Leisure & Tourism, indicated that the report would focus on “basic structures” to find a realistic and achievable option to include in the town’s regeneration master plan, adding that there was the political will to make a pier at Redcar a reality. Feasibility studies are expected to commence soon.
Yarmouth pier launches restoration appeal
A £50,000 appeal has been launched by the owners of YARMOUTH (IOW) pier to help fund a total of £600,000 needed for the urgent replacement of almost half the wooden piles which support the pier. The work, which will see the completion of remedial measures to safeguard the structure following half the piles being replaced in 2008, needs to be undertaken by 2018. The famous gribble worm has been eating away at the Greenhart timber piles and Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners are hoping to apply for an HLF bid, using the appeal monies as contributory funding. Television celebrity Alan Titchmarsh has agreed to become Patron of the appeal. The pier is used by strollers, anglers and occasional visiting ships including PS Waverley.
Skegness launches plans for seaside museum
Plans are being mooted for a museum and visitor centre at SKEGNESS, possibly located on the resort’s pier, tapping into the recently announced Coastal Revival Fund. Town manager Lisa Collins is creating a Coastal Community team to bid for some of the new money available through the Coastal Revival Fund.
Carolyn Wilkinson, a Director of UK Piers which owns and operates Skegness pier, commented that such a project would benefit both residents and visitors, adding that as a focal part of the heritage of Skegness having a museum would make an ideal addition. Successful registration would entitle the Skegness team to a £10,000 grant to establish itself with support from the County Council-led Coastal Communities Alliance.
Beaumaris passenger tax scrapped
The Isle of Anglesey Council has decided not to proceed with a proposed tax of 21p per boat passenger departing from and arriving at BEAUMARIS pier and instead introduce a £400 berthing fee. The majority of passengers use the boats in order to visit Puffin Island.
Consultants prepare Bangor funding bid
A firm of consultants has been appointed to prepare a Heritage Lottery Fund application on behalf of BANGOR City Council for funds to help restore its Grade II* listed pier. Headland Design, based in Chester, will carry out a detailed assessment of the structural work required to remedy almost 30 years of neglect, as well as designing new kiosks to replace the current ones, which are rotting away. There is considerable local support and the city’s University and Civic Society have set up a Joint Steering Group. One idea is to appoint a Heritage Officer to encourage and arrange more visits to the pier and activities on it. This will support the business case for the funding application.
Swanage riding high
The SWANAGE Pier Trust have reported a very satisfactory trading year with high numbers of visitors during the warm summer of 2014, including school parties. The regular boat service to Poole has been an added attraction. The pier was given a make-over on 27 September by a team of 21 volunteers from a local accountancy firm, who managed to paint 450 ft of railings in under six hours, using the original paint colour. The Friends of the Pier have recently scanned valuable papers from the Swanage Pier Company archive, showing R. St George Moore’s 1895 designs for the present (replacement) pier.
Saltburn arcade set to reopen
The amusement arcade at the entrance to SALTBURN pier was due to reopen at the end of January. The building was smashed to smithereens during the winter storms in December 2013. Lessee Grant Seddon said he had had to wait until Redcar & Clevedon Council, who own the pier, had carried out strengthening work beneath the arcade. He has now spent a considerable sum restoring the building, including a new floor and complete rewiring.
Torquay Princess spending deferred
Councillors in TORQUAY have voted against spending £240,000 on replacement decking to the PRINCESS pier until they receive a detailed report on the structure itself.
Mumbles lifeboat attracts overseas visitors
The new lifeboat station on MUMBLES pier has proved a hit, with an average of 300 visitors per day. According to records kept by the Visitor Shop 162 visitors from 28 foreign countries have come along to inspect the new £2.7 million Tamar class lifeboat and spent around £52,000 on books and mementos. The shop is run by a team of 32 local volunteers. Local performing groups such as Male Voice Choirs have also appeared there.
Herne Bay wins The People’s Millions
The Friends of Herne Bay Pier have won the People’s Millions Award. They were shortlisted against the KE Railway and on 24 November supporters of each project were given 24 hours in which to cast their votes. The following day Meridian TV cameras filmed scenes in front of the pier for transmission during the regional news bulletin that evening. Then came the announcement that the Herne Bay Pier Trust had been waiting for. The £50,000 award will help the Friends to increase the number of huts on the pier and erect a stage for the increasing number of music and dance events that are being held during the summer months.
Steady progress at Hastings….
Reconstruction works on HASTINGS pier are about halfway complete and it is hoped that the target date for reopening it in the summer of next year will be met. Around £7 million of the restoration budget has been spent on repairing the steel structure of the pier. This was not without danger as it involved workers hanging from the deck with the waves below. Those working on the beach have of course had to take account of the tides. The entire pier decking has been replaced and the balustrades have either been renovated or replaced. The remains of the old ballroom at the pier head, severely damaged by the fire in 2010, have been removed. The 400 sq. ft. arm at the pier entrance (all that remained after the fire) will be refurbished and transformed into a restaurant, and a brand new building will be constructed to house a visitor and education centre, with a kiosk bar on the roof. Once it is operational the pier will create 45 jobs and 10 apprenticeships, and it is estimated that Hastings’ local economy will benefit by approximately £1.2 million.
… and at Cleethorpes too
CLEETHORPES managing Director Simon Huxford has said he is confident that the refurbishment of the pier will be complete in time for its planned reopening in May. The interior of the former Showbar has been completely stripped out and contractors have moved in to convert it into a 500 tiered seat auditorium or that can also be used as a private function room seating 240 people at tables. The refitted building will also house a restaurant, which by popular vote is being christened “The 1873” (a reference to the pier’s opening date), plus a pub and a Victorian tea room. It is planned to create a 360 degree walkway around the entire building.
Worthing Southern Pavilion stages gigs
The newly refurbished Southern Pavilion on WORTHING pier, once host to the town’s Municipal Orchestra, began holding gigs in December with leading pop groups and jazz singers such as Sarah Jane Morris and Liane Carroll. Admission prices range from £12.50 to £20. Of particular note is a rare appearance, on Wednesday 29 April, by American star Mud Morganfield, the eldest son of the legendary blues singer Muddy Waters.
Farewell to Fred
Fred Hodgson is stepping down from his post as Chairman of the Friends of RAMSEY QUEEN’S pier on the Isle of Man. Fred has been tireless in his campaign to prevent this magnificent structure, which has been closed to the public since 1991, from demolition. Under pressure from the Friends the IOM Government eventually agreed to pursue the least costly option, which was to “stabilize” the pier: this involved removing and putting into safe storage the original Victorian elements such as railings, and undertaking a programme of minimal maintenance. The NPS congratulates Fred on 20 years of unstinting leadership and looks forward to the day when the Queen’s is restored and reopened.
Blackpool Airport shuts down
BLACKPOOL airport closed to passenger flights on 15 October last year, resulting in the loss of 100 jobs. Its owners went into liquidation, leaving £35 million of debt. From December, however, it reopened as a facility for small aircraft and helicopters, including Bond Offshore Helicopters which operates services to oil and gas rigs in the Irish Sea. This is a severe blow to the local area as a number of charter flights operated from there to Spain and other popular European resorts during the summer. For a short while in the 1990s Ryanair operated a daily service from Southend, but eventually decided the route was not financially viable. There are no direct train services from London to Blackpool, meaning the 240 mile journey, with a change of trains at Preston, takes 2 hours 45 minutes. These poor transport links were instrumental in the resort losing the prestigious party conferences some time ago: they relocated to Manchester.
Seaside towns struggle as populations age
A detailed survey based on the results of the 2011 Census has shown that 20% of people living in coastal towns in England and Wales are aged 65 or over, with the proportion at SOUTHWOLD rising to 50%. Of those below this age 7% suffer from long term health problems which limit their day-to-day activities. 95% of these towns’ populations are classified as White. The recently appointed Communities Minister Penny Morduant has claimed that the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund has invested £64 million in helping to combat the problems of seaside towns by creating new jobs and training opportunities.
No Christmas Day dip at Brighton
After 155 years the Christmas Day charity swim event near BRIGHTON PALACE pier was cancelled on Health & Safety grounds. It appears that some of the swimmers last year were the worse for wear.
And finally… Can you believe it? TNT have chosen to rebrand their postal delivery service as Whistl (sic) and advertised it with a picture of BRIGHTON PALACE pier in the background.
(With thanks to Margaret Burgoine, Graham Cadman, Daphne Leach, Daphne Lewis, Tim Mickleburgh and Chris Wyatt for their contributions.)
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, which was Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime on 30 September, saw its hero Ed Brubeck frantically searching for his missing six year old daughter on BRIGHTON PALACE pier.
Choreographer Arlene Phillips was Len Goodman’s guest on BBC1’s Holiday Of A Lifetime on 28 October. The pair visited SOUTHPORT where Arlene had enjoyed happy family holidays in the 1950s. During the programme they took a ride down the 3,642 ft long pier on its tram.
BBC1’s Countryfile on 2 November was an Isle of Wight edition, with a report from Matt Baker on RYDE pier. The pier was conveniently cleared of vehicles so that the presenter could stroll along it unimpeded! After interviewing two local historians he took a boat underneath the structure to help repair one of its supports.
Actor and writer David Walliams was on CROMER pier on 10 November filming scenes for a forthcoming BBC drama series based on the Agatha Christie novelPartners In Crime. The series is set in 1950s Britain, rising from the ashes of the Blitz into the grip of a new Cold War. Walliams and actress Jessica Raine (ofCall The Midwife fame) play husband and wife team Tommy and Tuppence, who, according to the blurb, “stumble into a world of murder and undercover agents”.
British supermodel Agyness Deyn’s movie debut Electricity, in which she plays an epileptic, was premiered at the London Film Festival in November, but despite rave reviews it failed to gain widespread distribution in UK cinemas. Scenes from this British thriller were shot on SALTBURN pier.
Tim Wardley and Suzie Hart attended the Opening Night of CROMER Pier Pavilion’s Christmas Show on 30 November and Tim was pictured with comedian Olly Day in the 11 December issue of The Stage.