Compiled by Anthony Wills
Birnbeck changes hands
Britain’s most threatened pier, WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK, has been purchased for an unknown sum by developers CNM Estates, headed by businessman Wahid Samady.Mr Samady has appointed leading consultants Colliers International to review proposals for the repair and regeneration of the pier and island as part of his plans to restore the Grade II* listed structure and build 63 apartments on the site of the neighbouring Royal Pier Hotel, which was demolished by North Somerset Council in 2010. The firm has previously provided advice to UK Piers Ltd, owners of SKEGNESS and PAIGNTON piers (the latter changing hands last summer).
Colwyn Bay: no end in sight
The long drawn-out battle between businessman Steve Hunt and COLWYN BAY Town Council shows no sign of reaching a conclusion after the court hearing set for 26 & 27 November was adjourned. Mr Hunt claims that he is still the lawful owner of the VICTORIA pier, while the Council says that they purchased it from the receivers after Mr Hunt was declared bankrupt. Meanwhile the Council appears to have rescinded its decision to have the pier demolished. It has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Victoria Pier Trust, who have subsequently submitted an Ј8.5 million restoration application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. A decision is unlikely before April.
Shock report reveals threat to Southend…
SOUTHEND Council are facing a bill for Ј2 million over the next five years according to a survey carried out by leading pier engineers Hemsley Orrell. Although the report states there is no immediate risk to the public, Ј500,000 is needed immediately to save the railway followed by a further Ј1.5 million for repairs to the pier’s infrastructure. Since the last survey was carried out in 2009 the 7,286ft long structure has survived extreme weather conditions. Ironically it attracted a record number of visitors in 2014. The Council have committed to finding the money but plans to build a 100-seat amphitheatre on the site of the former pier head enclosure have been shelved. Councillors will also examine ways of contracting out certain concessions in order to raise money, and have not ruled out increasing admission charges. Southend Council was in debt to the tune of Ј256 million as of last October.
… but its Pier Museum is thriving
Meanwhile the Pier Museum, which is situated in former workshops beneath the railway station, celebrated its 25th anniversary last July. The mild autumn weather enabled it to stay open until 25 October and during this extended season five youngsters from the local Job Centre were seconded to it on a work experience programme. On 9 December the Foundation held a social event in the town museum at which Chris Taylor showed an early publicity film of the pier and the resort. For further information visit www.southendpiermuseum.co.uk
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 Ј52,000 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 Ј7 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. For further information visit www.worthingpier.co.uk
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.