Compiled by Anthony Wills
EASTBOURNE PIER HAS A NEW OWNER
A local hotelier, Sheikh-Abid Gulzar, has purchased EASTBOURNE pier for an undisclosed sum. Mr Gulzar said he was looking forward to working with Eastbourne Council and the town’s new MP Caroline Ansell. He added: “I have lived in this country for 50 years and I care passionately about Eastbourne and the people who live here. I want to make it the best pier in the country and I will put in whatever investment is needed to achieve this.” It is understood that one of his aims us to restore the landing stage at the end of the Grade II* listed structure. He has hinted that he may impose a pier toll towards the cost of the improvements.
Blackpool’s three piers now under single ownership
Peter Sedgwick, owner of BLACKPOOL NORTH pier since 2011, acquired the resort’s other two piers, CENTRAL and SOUTH, at the beginning of July for a reported Ј8 million. They were put up for sale by Cuerden Leisure, who had owned them since 1998. Mr Sedgwick said he intended to cross-market the three piers and attract more customers. His grandfather made some of the earliest films of the town’s holidaymakers on his Bioscope Show Front, and also owned a travelling menagerie of exotic animals. Mr Sedgwick himself started in the resort over 40 years ago with a small amusement arcade.
New Trust takes lease on Ramsey Queen’s
A retired RAF engineer has set up a Trust to work towards the restoration of the QUEEN’S pier at RAMSEY (Isle of Man). Tom Durrant says the 129-year old listed structure is as important to the island’s tourist economy as the Laxey Wheel. Around 100 people attended a meeting held on 24 September to express their support for the project. The Queen’s Pier Restoration Trust has been granted a licence to carry out a survey and complete a risk assessment, depending on the results of which it will be given a three year lease to start work on restoring the first 150ft of the 2,241ft structure. The pier was saved from demolition in 2011 after a determined effort by the Friends of the Queen’s Pier Society, who persuaded the IOM Government to spend Ј1.7 million on stabilizing it. Mr Durrant, however, puts the cost of restoring the entire pier at just £100,000. It is understood that if the Trust is successful in its endeavours after three years the IOM Government would put the pier up for sale on a competitive tender basis. Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne commented: “It is an important piece of our heritage – we can’t just leave it to crumble into the sea.”
Swanage to receive £893,000 of Lottery funding
The SWANAGE Pier Trust has been awarded Phase One funding of £893,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to help replace parts which are in a critical condition and at risk of collapse. Welcoming the announcement, the Trust’s Chairman Dave Laut warned that, in order to proceed to Phase Two, the Trust would need to raise matching funding of £900,000 by late 2016. The pier has had a busy year with the sale of its 10,000th plaque and visits by ps Waverley throughout September. An ITV drama, filmed at the pier in April, will be screened at Christmas.
Schveningen and Cleethorpes open again
SCHWENINGEN pier in the Netherlands reopened on 19 July after a two year closure, attracting 22,000 visitors in two days. It was purchased in October 2014 by Kondor Wessels Vastgoed & Danzep, who have been carrying out renovations since. There is still much to do, so access is confined for the moment to the upper deck, pancake restaurant, tower and bungee jump. Construction of a giant Ferris Wheel will begin in due course.
And closer to home, CLEETHORPES pier reopened to universal praise on 29 August after a stunning restoration of its Pavilion. It offers a comfortable bar, cream teas with home-baked scones and pastries, fine dining in the restaurant and a spacious multi-purpose ballroom which can be used for conferences, concerts, parties and festive celebrations.
Modified redevelopment plans agreed for Felixstowe
The owner of FELIXSTOWE pier, Stan Threadwell, has announced that, after years of negotiations with the local Council, Marine Environment Agency and Crown Estate, work on its restoration will begin in the autumn of next year. This is estimated to take 36 weeks to complete, meaning that the pier will reopen in time for the 2017 summer season. Mr Threadwell said the steelwork had been ordered and the contractors engaged. The plans have however had to be scaled back to ensure that the project remains within budget. This will obviate the need for marine piling at this stage. The newly restored pier will incorporate a two-storey pavilion including a bowling alley, amusements, cafйs and a restaurant. The 250-yard jetty beyond the pavilion will remain but there will be no access, as it will be unsafe until further work is carried out.
Dunoon undergoes major repairs
Contractors have been working hard on the restoration of DUNOON’s historic pier. The waiting room has been refurbished to provide two separate but connected multi-functional spaces. Heating, lighting and ventilation systems have been upgraded, rotting window frames replaced and new toilets installed. The project also sees a number of the timber piles being replaced with new greenheart timbers, and others encased with a long-lasting, non-corrosive sleeve that protects them from salt water and wood-boring crustaceans. The decking along the pedestrian access to the pier has been lifted, repaired and replaced, while the existing handrails have been redecorated, with new matching ones to replace the unsightly steel barriers presently installed along the pier head. The total cost is in the region of £2 million and is being part funded by the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund. It is hoped that public access will be restored early in the New Year.
A big question mark is hanging over the restoration of MUMBLES pier. Its owners AMECO were due to receive a loan of £2.4 million from the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales, but this has been frozen pending a Wales Audit Office investigation. The whole of the fund’s £30 million budget is in fact in limbo while the Welsh Government investigates whether previous recipients under-achieved on their subsequent sale prices. In the case of the pier the money was to be used to demolish the buildings on the shoreline, level the ground and then build a new sea wall and boardwalk before offering the site to developers.
Threat to Ryde pier railway
A recent report has concluded that £40 million needs to be found over the next eight years in order to maintain the railway service from RYDE (IOW) pier head. The ex-London Underground rolling stock, which has been used on the line since 1990, is life-expired and needs replacing. The Government already subsidizes the 8 Ѕ mile line to Shanklin to the tune of £3 million a year. South West Trains, which operates the service, says it would be cheaper to replace it with a bus service. The island’s MP Andrew Turner says that the Chancellor has asked the Department of Transport to make savings of between 25% and 40%. Responsibility for transport matters is set to be devolved to local authorities, meaning that the IOW Council would have to dig deep into its coffers if the line is to survive. The line links with the IOW Steam Railway at Smallbrook Junction and its closure would have a serious effect on their operation.
The owner of WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNECK pier has said that the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust needs to raise £80-100 million to pay for a feasibility study. Wahid Samady of CMN Estates added: “We now need to find a way forward for a generational problem: an accumulation of neglect. I am not proposing to put in a planning application for the pier. I have spent a lot of money in this and maybe I have wasted it. But at last we have got a structure we can work around. I am incredibly supportive of the Trust and I hope the people of Weston get right behind them.” The Regeneration Trust has announced schemes enabling people to sponsor lamps, seats or planks by having plaques erected. In September the Victorian Society included Birnbeck in its Top Ten list of endangered buildings.
Seaward access to LOWESTOFT SOUTH pier was restored on 12 July after a campaign by local fishermen, who had been denied access for two years. A three month agreement was drawn up between Associated British Ports and a consortium of local businesses. In a separate development the large entertainment complex at the pier entrance was put up for auction in October with a guide price of £1,250,000.
The CLEVEDON Pier Trust has invited members of the public to subscribe to a share issue in order to raise £500,000 for the completion of the new Visitor Centre. Shares cost £1 with a minimum investment of Ј150. Among the benefits afforded to shareholders will be free entrance and 10% off food and drink at the pier head cafй. To subscribe visit www.clevedonpier.com The Visitor Centre, which has cost £2.25 million, will include a top-level viewing platform, education facility and tea room. It has been funded by a Lottery grant of £720,000 together with £750,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund, £30,000 from Clevedon Town Council and £50,000 from the developers of the site where the Royal Pier Hotel once stood.
After a very successful summer with more traders and stalls than ever before (including a recording studio) the Chairman of the HERNE BAY Pier Trust, Doreen Stone, has appealed for donations of between £15-20,000 towards the cost of erecting a cover over the performance stage, which was financed by a £50,000 Lottery grant earlier in the year. For details visit www.hernebaypier.org.
HUNSTANTON’s Family Entertainment Centre on the Green is up for sale with an asking price of £4.5 million. The huge hangar-shaped building, incorporating an amusement arcade, eight lane bowling alley and catering facilities, opened in 2003, replacing the building which was all that remained of the resort’s pier (1870-1978). The Ealing comedy Barnacle Bill, starring Alec Guinness, was filmed on it in 1957.
Plans have been submitted for a massive redevelopment of the derelict SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL pier. The waterfront scheme includes 730 apartments, up to 50 shops, a casino, several restaurants and a 250-bed hotel. The pier, which has been closed to the public since 1980, dates from 1833, making it the second oldest in the country.
CROMER pier welcomed two famous cricketers in early August. Former Prime Minister John Major, who lives locally, came to the Pavilion Theatre to watch a performance of Seaside Special. His father Tom was a music-hall artiste and circus performer. On 5 August Freddie Flintoff did some filming for his forthcoming Sky TV series Flintoff: Lord of the Fries, in which he and Rob Penn travel around Britain with a mobile fish and chip shop! Flintoff would probably have preferred to have been watching England bowl Australia out for 60 runs in the Second Test Match!
A passionate supporter of Cromer pier is moving out of the area. Richard Batson has reviewed the shows at the Pavilion Theatre in the Eastern Daily Press for over 20 years. In a warm-hearted article published on 23 September he wrote how much the landmark has meant to him in all weathers: “Ever since I came to Cromer 23 years ago the pier has been an integral part of my life, and for the town itself much longer”.
The winner of the NPS trophy at the WORTHING Birdman Rally on 16/17 August was Sean Fratley with a distance of 88.6 metres (6.2 seconds in the air): this is the longest ever achieved in the Leonardo da Vinci category. Sean is an American inventor who moved from New York to Hong Kong ten years ago. The winner of the Condor class was Tony Hughes, who achieved 106 metres in 11.9 seconds. Former champion Ron Freeman was unlucky with the wind and only managed 27m in 3.5 secs (61.3m in the Condor Class). The future of Worthing Birdman is however under discussion, rising costs and little evidence of increased spending in the town during the event being the main factors.
BOURNEMOUTH pier was crowded for the annual Air Festival held on 21/22 August, despite the Ј1 pier toll still being levied on visitors by the Council. There were live music stages both on it and at nearby BOSCOMBE pier, which enjoyed acts ranging from a prom-style band to chart-topping pop and dance classics. The Air Festival ended the day before the tragic accident at Shoreham: all aerobatics at Bournemouth were held over the sea.
SOUTHWOLD pier was widely criticized in August for banning a family from eating their own picnic, and telling two pensioners to stop eating cake which they had brought with them in a plastic box.
The Government’s newly appointed Minister for Communities & Local Government, Mark Francois, visited BOGNOR REGIS on 2 September and was shown around its pier by the Chairman of the Bognor Pier Trust, Paul Wells. Mr Francois also met John Ayres, the owner, and some members of the Friends of the Pier. The Trust is working with the local council to bid for up to £5,000 from a £3 million revival fund, which will pay for architects’ fees and other preparatory work prior to a Heritage Lottery bid early next year.
Secretary for Defence turned TV presenter Michael Portillo had a nasty shock when a mid-air drone camera headed straight at him as he filmed sequences on board mv Balmoral for a documentary marking the forthcoming centenary of the 1916 Irish Easter Rising. The accident happened on 6 September as the ship sailed from Liverpool’s Pier Head en route to LLANDUDNO. Less fortunate was its bosun, who was hit by the camera: fortunately he sustained only a superficial injury.
As Part of Heritage Open Day weekend on 10 September a walk entitled On The Warpath was organized from GREAT YARMOUTH WELLINGTON pier.
WEYMESS BAY ferry services on the Clyde have been disrupted since the pier closed at the end of September for major refurbishment work, which is expected to last until mid-March 2016. During this period Rothesay’s ferries are sailing to and from Gourock.
Historic England (formerly English Heritage) has published a list of eight favourite piers on which to promenade: they are BLACKPOOL NORTH, BRIGHTON PALACE, CLEVEDON, CROMER, GREAT YARMOUTH BRITANNIA, HASTINGS (shut!), SOUTHEND and SOUTHWOLD. The organisation’s senior investigator, Allan Brodie, who contributed an article to the recent publicationBritish Seaside Piers, has also drawn up a list of iconic buildings around Britain’s coast. Aside from SOUTHEND pier it includes Blackpool Tower, Brighton Royal Pavilion, Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus, Margate Dreamland, Saltdean Lido and Scarborough Grand Hotel.
A report by the National Trust has revealed a worrying 20 per cent decline in UK seaside trips over the last 10 years. The study of 9,000 people uncovered a steady reduction in the nation’s connections with the coast, despite 88% of UK adults saying they regard it as a national treasure. Only 14% of 18-24 year olds said their happiest childhood memory is being by the sea, half the national average of 29%. This rises to 38% among 55+ year-olds. Among older generations 94% agreed that it is important that all parents give their children the opportunity to experience the UK’s coast or seaside. 88% of people with children in their household also agreed, but this fell to 77% among those aged 18-24. Dr Philip Long, Head of Tourism at Bournemouth University, said “The steep decline in visitor numbers over the last ten years disturbs me… Cost barriers are of course a concern with families and another factor may be the increasing attraction of many British cities, such as Sheffield, which recreates a seaside resort with an “urban beach” in the city centre”.
Simon Roberts’ exhibition of piers photos (“Pierdom”) is currently showing at BRIGHTON Museum and Arts Gallery (ends on 17 February 2016).
Congratulations to the Priestley family who managed to visit all 55 piers in England and Wales in just 20 days during July and August (an epic journey of nearly 2,500 miles), raising money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in the process. Several others are planning a similar undertaking in 2016.
ITV Anglia broadcast a series of reports on East Coast piers in its regional news bulletins in June and July, ranging from CROMER in the north to SOUTHEND in the south.
A new series of BBC2’s popular documentaries Coast kicked off on 9 July with some stunning aerial shots of SOUTHWOLD, SOUTHPORT, LLANDUDNO and the three BLACKPOOL piers. It also featured archive film of the pilot Neville Dukes doing speed test flights over WORTHING pier in 1953.
Three days later, on 12 July, the Times reported Peter Sedgwick’s acquisition of the CENTRAL and SOUTH piers in BLACKPOOL.
In Don’t Tell The Seaside, broadcast on 12 July on Radio 4, John Osborne talked of a visit to SOUTHWOLD, where he enjoyed the Tim Hunkin machines in the Under The Pier arcade, and spoke poignantly of the brass plaques that adorn its railings.
SOUTHWOLD pier on a cloudy day was featured in an artistic shot in the 23 July issue of the Guardian and the Times of 31 July featured a stunning image of LLANDUDNO pier as part of the Shipwrecked Mariners Society’s landscape competition.
The Guardian’s website also included a virtual tour of CROMER pier on 25 July.
BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, broadcast on 25 July, showed writer and wine expert Susy Atkins conducting a wine tasting in the Edwardian-style tea room on WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND pier.
The National Piers Society’s Media Relations Officer Anthony Wills appeared on BBC South East on 6 August to talk about the sale of EASTBOURNE pier, which had been announced that day. The interviews were filmed at BBC Norwich as Anthony was visiting CROMER pier to review Seaside Special. Anthony also took part in a phone-in on the Great British Seaside Holiday broadcast on Radio 5 Live on 14 August.
Included in the Daily Mail’s Glories of Seaside Britain supplement, published on 10 August, was a recommendation for Jasin’s Restaurant at the end of DEAL pier.
BBC1’s Countryfile on 11 August was devoted to LLANDUDNO, in which presenter John Craven talked to Adam Williams, the new owner of the pier.
NPS Patron Gyles Brandreth went head to head on 2 September with broadcaster and former MP Matthew Parris on Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show, in a debate about the value of piers. The package also included a live phone interview with Professor Tony Hazell on PENARTH pier. The response from listeners was overwhelmingly in favour of preserving piers and spending public money on them.
Making Waves was the title of a Radio 4 documentary broadcast on 9 September that focussed on the unsuccessful creation of an artificial surfing reef beside BOSCOMBE pier.
BBC Radio 5 Live’s morning programme came live from Horatio’s Bar at the end of BRIGHTON PALACE pier on 28 September while the Labour Party Conference was being held in the resort.
On the same day The Independent published an article on the future of RAMSEY QUEEN’S (IOM) pier.
(With thanks to Graham Cadman, Clover Chapman, John Gordon, Daphne Leach, Bernard Polley, Tim Mickleburgh, Tim Wardley, Josie Whibley & Guurtje Wink for their contributions)