Compiled by Anthony Wills
Balmoral sailings cancelled
It has been revealed that, for operational and financial reasons, MV Balmoral will not undertake any sailings this year. PS Waverley will be sailing from a number of piers, starting with LLANDUDNO (whose jetty has been newly restored) in late August and continuing to the Bristol Channel, South Coast and Thames during September and October.
For detailed itineraries visit www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk
Southsea South Parade sold?
There have been persistent rumours that SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE has been sold for an undisclosed sum to a private individual intent on restoring it to its former glory. Last October Portsmouth Council ordered that the Grade II listed structure be closed on safety grounds, and energy company EDF subsequently ceased supplying electricity due to an unpaid bill. The Council has now ordered the owners to carry out essential repairs to the pier canopy in order to protect the public, failing which it would do so itself and send them the bill. Southsea Pier Trust Chairman Leon Reis said that any new owner would have to spend millions of pounds salvaging and restoring the badly damaged structure.
More storm damage to piers
Since our report in January on CROMER, BLACKPOOL NORTH, SKEGNESS and SALTBURN, more piers sustained damage in continuing bad weather in February. Huge waves fanned by gale force winds caused part of BRIGHTON WEST’s skeletal concert hall (all that is left of the structure) to break off. The train service from RYDE Pier Head to Shanklin had to be suspended after the conductor rail was shifted by the tides. Planks from the disused boat deck at the end of SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE were dislodged and strewn along the beach towards CLARENCE pier. Further west, huge waves ripped a 10ft hole in the amusement arcade on TEIGNMOUTH pier and TORQUAY PRINCESS had to be closed after high seas lifted some of the concrete deck at its head, exposing electricity cables. Perhaps most tragically the north jetty on WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK – Britain’s most threatened pier- buckled under the force of the waves.
Campaigners will not give up the fight to save Colwyn Bay
Having voted in December to demolish COLWYN BAY’s VICTORIA pier Conwy Council formally declined the £594,000 initial award from the Heritage Lottery Fund on 13 February. At their meeting on 12 March councillors confirmed their decision to demolish the structure but hoped to safeguard and exhibit certain elements where possible. Campaigners Shore Thing are now saying that they could now be in a position to make a Lottery bid of their own once the ownership issue is settled, as the process of de-listing the structure will be lengthy. The protracted legal battle between Steve Hunt and Conwy Council was to go before Cardiff County Court between 14 & 16 April with a ruling expected in June. However, due to a problem with receipt of documents, the hearing has now been delayed until August, which means that a decision is not expected until the autumn.
Work to start on the Brighton i-Tower
After ten years of delay construction work on the i-360 tower in front of the site of BRIGHTON WEST pier is scheduled to begin in June and be finished in time to open in 2016, the 150th anniversary of the pier. The tower, however comes at a price – £46.2 million – almost enough to rebuild the pier itself! Brighton & Hove’s Green Party-led Council has increased its original contribution of £14 million to £36 million, most of it borrowed from the Government’s Public Works Loan Fund: a further £6 million is coming from architects Marks Barfield, and £4 million from the Coast to Coast Local Enterprise Partnership. According to the Council website the 574 ft high observation platform is predicted to attract 700 – 750,000 visitors a year and bring £1 million worth of business to the city. The Guardian took a more sceptical view – writing in the paper on 9 March John Keenan commented: “Only in the Alice in Wonderland world of Brighton’s political scene could you find environmentalists teaming up with true-blue Tories to find a tourist attraction paid for with public money which, if successful, will see the city flooded with emission-belching tourists and which, if it fails, will land the city’s residents with an enormous bill.”
Swanage officially reopens after repairs
SWANAGE pier was officially reopened in its entirety on 28 February, almost a year since rough seas and gale force winds badly damaged the pier’s middle section and pier head, requiring £60,000 for repairs. General Manager Ben Adeney said: “This ceremony is our way of saying Thank You to everyone for their support”. He added: “It is, however, important to remember that we still have 27 piles to repair”.
Hastings re-decking begins
The first wooden decking planks were laid on HASTINGS pier on 4 March. The complete restoration will include more than 45 miles of decking. The cost of the work is currently being paid for from the HLF grant of £11.4 million awarded in December 2012 and other grants. The newly formed Hastings Pier Charity, which is overseeing the restoration, managed to reach its target of raising £500,000 from subscribers by the end of the 2013-14 financial year.
Mumbles new lifeboat house given the royal seal of approval
The new boathouse at the head of MUMBLES pier was opened by the Duke of Kent, in his capacity as President of the RNLI, on 14 March. It will house the £2.7 million Tamar class lifeboat that was unveiled in October last year. The boat has been named RNLB Roy Barker IV in honour of Frederick Roy Barker who left his entire estate to the RNLI when he died in 1992. The RNLI is 190 years old this year.
Herne Bay Trust awarded 20 year lease on pier
The Herne Bay Pier Trust has been granted a 20 year lease on the pier by its owners Canterbury City Council. The lease will enable the Trust to instigate a comprehensive programme of activities over the summer to keep the structure a hive of activity and a major draw for visitors to the seafront. These include an Easter Egg-stravaganza, a community stage for music and drama, a repeat of the beach huts that were so successful last year, a tea room and a permanent helter skelter. They are also aiming to install an ice rink on the pier in time for Christmas.
Worthing’s Southern Pavilion to reopen
The refurbished Southern Pavilion at the end of WORTHING pier is due to reopen in time for Easter. The Grade II listed building, opened in 1889 and for many years home to the Worthing Municipal Orchestra, has had a chequered history as a nightclub in recent years, but has now been transformed into a multi-purpose venue with sweeping floors, chandeliers and plenty of natural light. It will be licensed to hold weddings and civil ceremonies, with room for over 200 guests. For further information visit www.worthingpierweddings.co.uk
… and Bognor’s new Sports Bar to launch
The new Sports Bar on BOGNOR REGIS pier should also open at Easter. The bar, which is situated on top of the amusement arcade, is named Legends and there are photos of sporting heroes on the walls. After varied use as a cinema, theatre and snooker club, the room will be flooded with natural light now that the windows overlooking Waterloo Square have been uncovered for the first time in nearly a century. New gentlemen’s toilets will complement the existing ladies’ facilities in what were formerly the theatre dressing rooms.
… but the Birdman Rally is in doubt
This year’s Birdman Rally on BOGNOR REGIS pier, scheduled for the weekend of 28/29 June, is in doubt due to a funding crisis. Grants from West Sussex County Council and Bognor Town Council have been cut back (Arun District Council withdrew its funding several years ago) and hoped-for commercial sponsorship from the Red Bull drinks company has not materialized. Failure to obtain sponsorship from other sources will mean that the big screen which allows close-ups of the flyers for the seafront crowds will have to be scrapped. The event’s organiser Barry Jones, writing in the Bognor Regis Observer on 13 March, said: “Birdman attracts 25,000 people to Bognor. The last Birdman run by the Council ten years ago cost £55,000. The Birdman committee has done brilliantly to run the event at an average cost of £14,000 since. Its continuing dumbing down will mean the demise of this seaside event.” For up to date information visit www.birdman.org.uk
Claremont’s new venue packs ‘em in
Since opening just before Christmas the Aquarium, LOWESTOFT CLAREMONT’s new performance space, has become the town’s top nightspot. (Members who came to Southwold for last year’s AGM visited the pier and saw construction work in progress.) A programme of appearances by top stars and bands has kept the tills ringing: forthcoming attractions include The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (25 April), Toyah Wilcox (3 May), The Blockheads (10 May) and Alexander O’Neal (10 May).
Southend to build pier head amphitheatre
SOUTHEND pier had one of its busiest years in 2013, attracting 283,468 visitors: the highest since 2005. The Royal Pavilion Cultural Centre, which opened at the pier head in July 2012, was undoubtedly a factor. It hosted over 60 events including conferences, recitals and concerts, film screenings, craft fairs and puppet festivals. Eight couples got married in the Centre, a number likely to be exceeded in 2014 as word gets around. The Centre’s most successful event was the Only Fools & Horses exhibition: it will return at Easter and run until 5 May. The pier head is now to be enhanced with the building of an open air performance space on the site of the 1997 open air pavilion. In addition the Council has allocated £943,000 for pier infrastructure and development in the coming year.
Weston Grand imposes pier tolls
WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND suddenly imposed a pier toll of £1 on 4 April. The charge applies to each adult and child apart from those in buggies and will go towards the high costs of maintaining the pier. The immediate reaction on Twitter and other social media was one of anger. The pier toll at nearby CLEVEDON is £1.80 but that pier is run by a charitable Trust and has no amusement arcades.
Summer is i’cumen in…
After the rigours of winter, which saw record rainfall and gale force winds, summer arrived early on 9 March with a temperature of just over 20C recorded at GRAVESEND. Crowds flocked to the beaches and BRIGHTON PALACE featured prominently on the front pages of the papers.
Vandals struck on four separate occasions at GREAT YARMOUTH BRITANNIA pier in March. Several machines in the arcade were smashed and a quantity of cash stolen. In a dramatic incident on the night of 6 April a man in the Long John’s Showbar was apparently set alight and taken to hospital with severe burns.
Plans to install a covered seating area with a 35ft retractable roof in front of BURNHAM-ON-SEA pier have been approved by Sedgemoor District Council. The roof will replace the conservatory and cover the whole of the forecourt. When closed it will blend in with the existing buildings. Adding additional sheltered seating will enable more customers to be served and increase catering revenues at a time when the pier’s amusements are becoming unable to compete with online gambling. Owner Louise Parkin said: “It will look very elegant now that we are having the building repaired and new lighting added.” She thanked the National Piers Society for supporting her application.
Terry, the proprietor of the Whistlestop cafe at BANGOR pier head, has died suddenly of a heart attack. Bangor City Council, which owns the structure, are seeking a replacement, and have received many expressions of interest. One of the pier’s kiosks sustained minor damage during the February storms. A Bangor Pier Appreciation Group has set up a site on Facebook.
Tributes have been paid to a Southport man who led the campaign to save SOUTHPORT pier in the early 1990s. Tony Quirke, who has died aged 78, wrote a column for the Southport Visiter and launched a series of tea dances in aid of the pier, before heaping pressure on the local authority which owned the structure and were minded to demolish it. The pier was saved by one vote and has gone on to be one of the most popular attractions in the area.
Couples could soon get married on BOURNEMOUTH pier following an application to hold ceremonies there. Bournemouth Borough Council said Key West Restaurant, which occupies the domed building on the pier, is to become a wedding venue. The resort has already hosted 94 weddings at a licensed beach hut below the West Cliff and the nearby Victorian Russell-Cotes Museum has just held its first ceremony.
George Osborne’s Budget contained good news for pier owners: Bingo Tax was reduced from 20% to 10%.
The annual Pier To Pier walk from CLACTON to HARWICH HA’PENNY piers in aid of the St Helena Hospice takes place on 27 April. By signing up walkers must undertake to raise a minimum of £25 in sponsorship. The walk is 7 miles one way or 14 out and back.
And finally… A clairvoyant could soon be predicting people’s fortunes on WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND pier. The owners have decided to rent out the four kiosks along the pier’s waist and are hoping to attract traditional seaside businesses such as a fortune teller and a henna tattooist. Each kiosk has its own power and water supplies.
With thanks to Margaret Burgoine, Tim Mickleburgh, Tim Wardley, Abi Whitby, Daphne Wilkinson and Chris Wyatt for their contributions.