Compiled by Anthony Wills

Councillors vote to demolish Colwyn Bay pier

At a lengthy meeting on 12 December Conwy Borough councillors considered six different options for the VICTORIA pier, which they claim to own, and selected the cheapest, which is to seek to have the structure’s Listed Building status removed and demolish it at a cost in the region of £1 million. This vote was immediately challenged by Steve Hunt, who is in dispute with the Council over ownership of the pier. His case is currently being considered by the High Court, whose judgment is not expected before June. The Victorian Society has come out strongly against demolition and local pressure group Shore Thing have pleaded for more time to come up with a solution.

RNLI pulls out of Birnbeck

After having been based there for 131 years the RNLI suddenly quit WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK pier at the end of November on safety grounds, leaving the rotting structure even more at risk. They have established a temporary base at Knightstone Island from where to operate their new Class D lifeboat. Until they have raised the £300,000 needed to establish a new lifeboat station they may still, at certain stages of the tide, have to launch from Birnbeck Island. Meanwhile developers CMN Estates, who are seeking to purchase the pier from current owners Urban Splash, have published their plans for redeveloping the entire site. CMN purchased the derelict Royal Pier Hotel five years ago and plan to build a new one on the site. There would be upwards of 20 luxury villas on Birnbeck Island with around 170 seafront flats overlooking the Severn Estuary: these would be built on stilts with parking beneath. This development would, it is believed, pay for the estimated £10 million needed to refurbish the pier. CMN’s Managing Director Wahid Samady said “The pier has been badly neglected for over 20 years and I am not sure how many more winters it can survive. We felt it was essential to make plans for a development which could cover all the costs, with or without Lottery funds”. North Somerset Council, however, have said that CMN’s plans are unacceptable. In view of the very real threat to this historic Eugenius Birch masterpiece the NPS are working behind the scenes to come up with a solution.

Storms cause major damage at Cromer and Blackpool North

The exceptional tidal surge of 5 December caused massive damage to two piers, both of which house working theatres. At CROMER the decking was lifted up by huge waves, which also engulfed the Box Office, cafe bar and souvenir shops. Twelve performances of the Christmas Show had to be cancelled and hundreds of ticket sales were lost owing to the destruction of the computerised booking system. Pier owners North Norfolk District Council and their contractors worked round the clock to open a narrow pathway along one side of the deck so that the RNLI could reach the lifeboat station. A temporary ticket office was opened at the ice cream counter inside the Pavilion Theatre lounge. Mercifully the auditorium was virtually unscathed and the sets and costumes for the show undamaged. The cost of structural repairs alone is estimated at £100,000 but the cafe, which had only recently been refurbished, is having to be completely stripped out and refitted. Of the other East Coast piers only SALTBURN and SKEGNESS were affected (the amusement arcade at the former is likely to be out of action for up to a year) but across the other side of the country BLACKPOOL NORTH was badly hit. There was structural damage to the pier head, the recently restored Sun Lounge was strewn with broken glass and the theatre lost its orchestra pit. The floor in the amusement arcade was ripped up by the power of the waves and the machines scattered like toys. Repair costs were initially estimated at around £1 million and it was unclear as to how much could be claimed on insurance. Violent storms had already hit Britain at the end of October but despite winds reaching 99 mph in places the only reported damage to a pier was at CLACTON, where a helter skelter collapsed. No-one was injured.

Newly restored Penarth Pier Pavilion opens its doors

The art deco pavilion on PENARTH pier officially opened its doors on 1st December after a five year programme of restoration costing £4.2 million. The Grade II building, which dates from 1929, now contains a cinema, cafe, bar and restaurant, in addition to a main hall that can be used as a ballroom or exhibition centre. The observation room on the second floor has been named Room 617 to reinforce the link between the Pavilion and the World War II Dambuster Squadron. (Wing Commander Guy Gibson lived in Penarth). Director David Trotman said the pavilion could be used as a community centre for the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan. Among the visitors on opening day was 77-year old Thelma Price, who said “It brings back lovely memories of the wonderful times we had here when I was a young girl. It was called the Marina Ballroom”. The Pavilion welcomed more than 8,500 visitors in its first month of operation.

Southsea Pier Trust in negotiations to purchase South Parade pier

The Southsea Pier Trust have revealed that they are in negotiation with the owners of the Grade II listed SOUTH PARADE pier to purchase it for an undisclosed sum. The pier was put up for auction in December 2012 but failed to reach its reserve price of £200,000. It was closed on the orders of Portsmouth City Council in October last year on safety grounds. After a programme of works the owners announced their intention to reopen it at the end of November but the Council insisted that its closure order remain in force. A dispute over an unpaid electricity bill has led to the lights being turned off.

Paignton names its price

As exclusively revealed in PIERS 109 the 135-year old pier at PAIGNTON in Devon is on the market. Offers in the region of £1,850,000 are being invited. The selling agents say that its amusements and other concessionary facilities have a turnover of about £790,000 a year, producing an annual profit of around £250,000. The new owner will be required to maintain the public right of way on the beach area under the pier.

Overseas News

The MUELLE VERGARA at VINA DEL MAR in Chile is to undergo complete restoration. There will be two fishing platforms on different levels and a ramp from the promenade. There are no plans to remove the distinctive crane, which was built in Leeds and transferred to Chile at some point in the 1930s.

The actors Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek and Jessica Alba filmed sequences on MALIBU pier, California last October for a feature film How To Make Love Like An Englishman. It is described as a romantic comedy concerning a Cambridge professor and should reach British screens this Spring.

Other News

The 180-year old ROYAL pier at SOUTHAMPTON, which was destroyed by fire in the 1990s and has lain derelict ever since, could undergo major restoration after an agreement was signed on 27 September last year by the owners Associated British Ports and Southampton City Council. Developers Morgan Sindall Investments have drawn up outline plans to turn the site into a huge leisure complex featuring a 200-bedroom hotel and mega-casino with restaurants and bars, which would be sited around a new marina. The development would also become the new home of the Southampton Boat Show, while the Red Funnel ferry terminal would be moved to a new location on Town Quay.

A FILM crew visited Southport’s iconic pier on 4 October to record scenes for a new drama.The team from the BBC were in Southport filming a new series called There To Here. The show will feature actors Philip Glenister, who starred in Big School and as Gene Hunt in Life on Mars; his co-star in that series Liz White; and Bernard Hill from Lord Of The Rings. There To Here takes place in Manchester on the day an IRA bomb destroyed much of Manchester’s city centre in June 1996.

The pier head at LOWESTOFT SOUTH was fenced off in mid-October following the failure of discussions between between owners Associated British Ports and Waveney District Council, whose lease had come to an end. Anglers and other residents have formed a group, Pier Pressure, to campaign for access to be restored. None of the actual pier concessions at the pier entrance is affected and the RNLI shop is still open for business.

NPS Media Relations Officer Anthony Wills appeared on ITV1’s The Alan Titchmarsh Show on 30 October alongside the “Pier Kissers” Hazel & Jay Prosser and Steve Maxted, who brought some of his vintage penny slot machines to the studio. Anthony also gave a piers talk to the Hampstead Branch of the National Trust on 13 October and was interviewed on BBC Radio Suffolk on 5 November regarding the closure of the pier head at LOWESTOFT SOUTH.

Of the ten licensing applications submitted by the owners of EASTBOURNE pier last October seven were turned down. These included permission to keep the nightclub open until 4 a.m. and serve alcoholic drinks until 3.30 a.m. A request to allow indoor sports including wrestling and show films was also refused. Applications to keep the Victorian Tearooms open until midnight and allow the burger kiosk to trade within licensing hours were accepted.

The restoration of the Grade II listed Eugenius Birch designed HASTINGS pier officially began on 10 December with the replacement of one of its columns. The Hastings Pier Charity launched a share issue early in October last year, with a minimum investment of £100 and a maximum of £25,000. By the end of November over £170,000 had been raised towards the £500,000 target: the offer closes on 5 April.

The HERNE BAY Pier Trust had a busy Christmas period and have now applied to Canterbury City Council for the grant of a lease of the platform level. Chairman Doreen Stone has emphasized that the restoration of the pier to its original length is still the Trust’s ultimate goal. The Trust’s AGM will be held on 17 January.

Work on converting the Pier Theatre at BOURNEMOUTH into a Rock Reef Centre is due to start in January. The Theatres Trust is monitoring the conversion to ensure that the building’s integrity is maintained and that it can be put back to theatrical use if the circumstances arise. The pier was honoured by a visit from Professor Stephen Hawkins on 16 October.

The lifeboat pier at SELSEY in West Sussex is under threat. There has been an RNLI launching station at Selsey for 145 years. The present structure was built in 1960 and has a 1 in 5 slipway. The pier was also used as the launch pad for the original Birdman Rally until the event moved to BOGNOR REGIS in 1978.

A Maritime Museum could open on LLANDUDNO pier by the end of 2014 if the organisers manage to raise the £10,000 needed. The Ships Timbers Museum would make use of empty kiosks on the pier and house historical displays on the lifeboat and early shipwrecks off the Great Orme.

Disability campaigners at FALMOUTH have won a battle to have the paddle gates leading to the toilets on the PRINCE OF WALES pier, which were installed in July last year, removed after they were found to be too narrow for some wheelchairs. The toilets are now free of charge.

And finally…

A Taiwanese tourist in her mid-20s was so busy checking her Facebook page that she walked off the end of ST KILDA pier in MELBOURNE, Australia. She was found a few yards from the pier, floating on her back because she could not swim. Her mobile phone was still in her hand. She was taken to hospital for a check-up and later released.

With thanks to Tim Mickleburgh, Kenneth Shenton, Rebecca Wass & Chris Wyatt for their contributions.