Compiled by Anthony Wills


It was announced on 6 July that SOUTHWOLD pier is being offered for sale at an asking price of £6 million. One of the most successful piers in the UK (and the second largest employer in the Suffolk resort), the pier was to have been the first to feature a 5-storey hotel at its entrance. However, a combination of the delay in obtaining planning permission and the current economic situation has seen construction costs spiral from £2-3 million to an estimated £5 million, which the pier’s owner Stephen Bournes says he is unable to raise. Southwold pier had been reduced by a series of fires and waves to just 50ft and was almost single-handedly restored to 600 ft (with a new landing stage) by Chris Iredale, who sold it to Mr Bournes in 2002. The pier has been praised for its high class facilities and quirky amusements and it is hoped that a sympathetic and equally dynamic buyer will be found.

Ramsey Queen’s: MPs go for the cheapest option

After numerous enquiries and reports the Isle of Man Tynwald has decided to spend £1.8 million to stabilize RAMSEY QUEENS pier. This was the cheapest of four options presented to the Manx Parliament and comes after a strong campaign by the Friends of the Pier. The money will be used to remove everything loose at deck level and place the two wooden toll booths, cast iron stanchions, light columns and seats into secure storage. The 130-year old structure (6th longest in the UK) has been closed to the public since 1991.
In a lively debate several MHXs (MPs) dismissed the demolition amendment as misguided fudge and lack of vision, stressing that the pier was a national icon alongside the Laxey Wheel, Steam and Electric Railways, all of which had nearly been lost. If the demolition proposal was adopted the structure would first have to be deregistered from its Protected Building status; this would involve an independent planning inspector, who would probably not accept the proposal purely on the grounds of cost.
Fred Hodgson of the Friends of the Queen’s Pier said he was disappointed: “Whilst the present financial climate is unhelpful we would make the point that it is never a “good time” and the Manx people have been waiting their turn for twenty years. The financial cloud also has a silver lining in that the island at this time needs a capital project to maintain employment levels. It is our wish that the local work force obtain as much work as possible from this project, and of course once open the Queen’s pier will play a full part in restoring the fortunes of the island as a whole and not just Ramsey….. 81% of respondents in a 2005 cross island survey voted in favour of refurbishment, showing that the people of the Isle of Man expect better of their government.”
NPS President Gavin Henderson viewed the pier in November 2008 and Vice-Chairman Tim Wardley visited the island together with Anthony Wills in July of last year, expressing the view that the pier was structurally in good shape.

Southampton Royal in trouble

Part of SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL pier collapsed into the sea on 4 June, just weeks after the City Council had sought expressions of interest in developing a mixed use scheme on the 24 acre site, whose owners, Associated British Ports, had declared structurally beyond repair. The tenders would have had to include a permanent base for the Southampton Boat Show, improvements to the adjoining Mayflower Park and better access to the waterfront. The collapsed section will have to be removed by barge. ABP have declined to spend an estimated £3 million on demolishing the remainder of the 130-year old structure. The entrance pavilion was restored in 2008 and is now a Thai restaurant.

New owners for Cleethorpes and Southsea South Parade

Local businessman Bryn Ilsley has taken over CLEETHORPES pier after the previous owner went into administration. Mr Ilsley has said the pavilion will remain as a nightclub with different types of entertainment every night. And SOUTHSEA SOUTH PARADE changed hands for an undisclosed sum in June. The new owners are Frederick Nash of property firm Matcham South Coast, Tony Marshall and David Moore. They are already planning various improvements.

Cromer needs major repair work

A structural survey has revealed that CROMER pier needs nearly £1 million of urgent repairs within the next two years. This includes replacing much of the metal bracing, 16 out of 95 trusses and all of the timber deck beams. In the longer term the pier will require a further £2 million of work. Its owners, North Norfolk District Council, are now considering whether to explore options for the ownership or management of the pier via a trust or other such body. Entertainment in the pier theatre is already contracted out to Openwide International. On a more positive note the Friends of CROMER pier pavilion recently donated £2,000 towards coloured lights on the pier, spotlights in the theatre and a TV in the foyer showing highlights from Seaside Special, which runs until 18 September.

Colwyn Bay “falling into the sea”

Pieces of Colwyn Bay pier are falling on to the beach, raising fears that a person walking below could be injured or killed. A safety assessment commissioned by Conwy County Council and due to be published in April has not appeared. Meanwhile children are using the crumbling supports as a climbing frame. No work has been carried out on the 110-year old structure since it was taken over in 2008 by trustees Royce Peeling Green. A pier pressure group is pressing the Council to take action as a matter of urgency.

Southend presses ahead with £3 million pier investment

Despite the current economic climate SOUTHEND Council has decided to spend £3 million redeveloping the pier head with a new restaurant and culture centre, using designs by the Swedish firm White Arkitektur. The Council’s application for Sea Change money from the Government was turned down last year. £1 million wil be spent on strengthening the pier head to take the weight of the new building before constructing the performance space, with the catering facilities (which will be put out to private tender) following on. Meanwhile both the Balmoral and the Waverley are sailing from the pier this summer, the former between 21 July and 5 August and the latter from 25 September to 9 October.

Birdman 2010: take your pick

While WORTHING holds its third successive Birdman Rally over the weekend of 13/14 August it was announced that another Rally will be staged at BOGNOR REGIS on 11/12 September. Birdman originated in Selsey (at the lifeboat pier) on 1971 but outgrew the resort’s capacity by 1978, moving along the coast to Bognor. The event reached a peak of success in 2003 when it was sponsored by Virgin Atlantic. However in 2008 the already truncated Bognor pier was further shortened and the event cancelled on safety grounds. The organisers claim that recent tests have shown that the water below the pier head is sufficiently deep at high tide for flights to take place. It has recently been strengthened to meet health and safety requirements and Birdman applications were opened in June. Council permission for the event has yet to be granted. However in view of the late notification the NPS trophy will be awarded by Chairman Tim Phillips to the winner of the Leonardo da Vinci class at Worthing.

News from Wales

Restoration plans for MUMBLES pier were on show at the Pier Hotel on 18-19 June. The £39 million pound scheme would include redevelopment of the entire site including a hotel, apartments, boardwalks and a family entertainment centre. The privately owned pier is not however eligible for lottery or other funding.

Engineers have carried out an inspection of BEAUMARIS pier, involving the installation of a temporary jack-up work platform moored alongside in order to drill bore holes into the sea bed. The Isle of Anglesey County Council is conducting a public consultation over plans to spend up to £2 million reinstating the pier to its original width, strengthening the timber supports, replacing the existing decking, refurbishing the shelter and kiosk and constructing a new landing pontoon. Funding has been secured from the Welsh Assembly and European Regional Development Fund and work is scheduled to begin this autumn.

The proposed ferry service between Minehead, Ilfracombe and PENARTH pier has been postponed until next spring. Operators Severn Link said that this was due to the lack of a suitable landing facilities and an overnight layover berth at Swansea. Balmoral however will operate pleasure excursions from Penarth from 2 July.

The stump of decking at ABERYSTWYTH ROYAL pier has now been opened up to the public with the installation of picnic tables and benches and construction of an external staircase leading down from the Brasserie (formerly an Indian restaurant). The latter offers a wide variety of snacks and meals plus roast dinners on Sundays.
The Pier Pressure nightclub above the amusement arcade has been given a makeover and remains popular with the large student population of this university town. The pier suspended its 24-hour drinks operation during the cold winter due to lack of demand. Other facilities on this busy pier, which has been a member of the NPS since 1979, include snooker tables in the bar, take away pizzas and a video store. There is an interesting display of historical photos in the corridor leading from the seafront to the bar, serving as a reminder that this was a Eugenius Birch structure which opened in 1865. A fine watercolour showing the pier at its full length hangs in the town museum, which is now housed in the town’s former Capitol cinema. Economics correspondent Robert Peston was shown sunning himself on the beach in front of the pier for BBC1’s This Week broadcast during the run-up to the General Election. And BBC Wales’s series Wild Wales, repeated on BBC1 and BBC2 in July, included stunning shots of 20,000 starlings swarming around the pier.

Go To A Show!

Apart from CROMER’s legendary Seaside Special there are other pier theatres around the country presenting a wide range of shows which deserve your support. BLACKPOOL NORTH plays host to Joe Longthorne, Darren Day and Billy Pierce among others. GREAT YARMOUTH BRITANNIA has shows running nightly during August starring Cannon & Ball, The Searchers and The Chuckle Brothers. Shows on offer at BOURNEMOUTH pier theatre include Chico’s Summer Party, The Heat Is On and Rock ‘n’ Roll Paradise. And WEYMOUTH Pier Pavilion has One Night in Vegas, That’ll Be The Day and Waterloo (an Abba tribute).

Other news

Just a few days after the NPS presented the 2010 Pier of the Year award to BOSCOMBE it was announced that the pier head needed emergency repairs to protect some of the piles which had become exposed due to an unexpected change in the level of the sea bed.

Vandals have thrown a historic bench made from recovered cast iron and wooden parts of WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK pier on to the rocks below the kiosk used by the Friends of the Old Pier. The bench, which was commissioned by the Friends in 2001 and made by an employee of the Lay brothers (previous owners of the pier) gave users a vantage point across the bay. Meanwhile the restored GRAND pier just along the seafront is on track to reopen in July. Owners Kerry and Michelle Michael organised an Open Mic contest on 22 June to find a resident compere and entertainers for the forthcoming season. The pier is due to reopen in August. According to an article in the Guardian on 6 July the cost of the pavilion rebuild is £51 million. The Telegraph also covered the story, incorrectly claiming that the pier had been “decaying” under its previous owners.

Having failed to find a buyer last year the owners of EASTBOURNE pier are to spend £250,000 on restoring the Ocean Room as a conference centre and meeting room capable of holding up to 250 people, with a terrace offering 360 degree views. A licence to conduct weddings will also be sought.

A Facebook site set up to discuss the future of DUNOON pier attracted over 180 members in its first week. The overwhelming view was that the 115-year old structure should be saved, with suggestions ranging from the addition of retail and catering outlets to a permanent mooring site for the sv Carrick.

Swimmers and surfers have been warned to keep clear of the remains of BRIGHTON WEST pier after debris from the collapsed Concert Hall removed in February were discovered by an underwater photographer. The affected areas have been marked with buoys.

The possibility of reinventing CLACTON as a 21st century resort is being explored by Tendring District Council, which has engaged the services of designer Wayne Hemingway, who was responsible for the regeneration of Boscombe.

Sunday afternoon jazz sessions were held at the Riva bar and restaurant on GRAVESEND TOWN pier during April.

Comedian Ken Dodd opened the newly restored theatre bar on BOURNEMOUTH pier on 3 April in front of over 150 fans, who braved heavy rain and freezing winds. On Easter Monday the Wessex branch of the Variety Club organised its annual Easter bonnet competition at the pier’s Key West restaurant. The judges included Esther Rantzen and Anthony Bygraves. Free use of the Pier Theatre for a school play was the first prize and was won by a pupil from Talbot House prep school.

The Independent’s travel magazine on 10 April included a fine photo of LLANDUDNO pier to illustrate the publication of a new book, 52 Weekends by the Sea, by Brigid Benson and Craig Easton.

The following day’s Observer had a feature My Sunday In A Nutshell showing Richard Simcock’s young son leaping for joy on SOUTHPORT pier.

Anthony Wills represented the NPS at the AGM of the Friends of HASTINGS Pier held at the White Rock Hotel on 22 April. Their new shop Arthur Greens (a former menswear shop which still retains its 1872 fittings) has been refurbished with the help of grants from the Meanwhile Project and Retail Vitality and is trading well. A fundraising event was held there on 18 April. The Community Builders Award has enabled the Trust to proceed with the feasibility study on the pier restoration; key partners in the project are engineering firm Quadmost, Leisure Development Partners, Coleman Architects and Coin Street Consulting. The results were due in June. At the end of May the Hastings Observer handed in a petition signed by 3,000 readers urging the Council to secure a Compulsory Purchase Order from the Ravenclaw company and hand over the structure to the Trust. Eye-catching Save Hastings Pier posters have been put on display throughout the town. The Council is now considering the proposal. Meanwhile BBC1’s popular early evening programme The One Show sent reporter Simon Boazman to look over the pier in the company of trustee Angela Davis on 25 May, as part of a feature about communities taking over threatened council services such as libraries.

The Stagecoach bus company had short features on the piers of BRIGHTON, EASTBOURNE, HASTINGS and FOLKESTONE in its spring newsletter Catch the Buzz, and on WORTHING and BOGNOR REGIS in its sister publication Coastliners. NPS archivist Martin Easdown supplied the images.

EASTBOURNE’s new Towner contemporary art gallery hosted a Lottery funded exhibition entitled Pier & Promenades during May. With the help of a local girls’ school and the community arts group Musicata the exhibition traced the development of the resort from the 1850s to the 1930s. Alongside 20th century interpretations of the pier by artists such as Robert Tavener and Charles Bartlett there was an 1820 (pre-pier) map of “East Bourn and South Bourn” and watercolours of BRIGHTON PALACE by Edward Bawdon and HERNE BAY by Anthony Gross.

A Lifeboat Day held on 23 May at CLEVEDON attracted over 2,500 people who watched a staging of a sea rescue operation by Bristol & Portishead lifeboat. Other attractions on the day, which was blessed with hot sunshine, included Punch & Judy, Fancy Dress parade and a regatta on the water. A spectator who collapsed on the pier with heat exhaustion was attended by members of the Clevedon Community First Responders Group.

Soldiers from the 16th Air Assault Support Regiment (the Army’s premier Rapid Response Formation in Afghanistan) enjoyed a free day out on SOUTHWOLD pier on 2 June thanks to owner Stephen Bournes. The squaddies and their families enjoyed free food and drink plus change for the machines in the amusement arcade and a boat trip. They will be deployed again to Afghanistan in September.

The Waverley marked D-Day on 13 June by sailing from CLEVEDON pier to Lundy Island for a special service conducted by Rev. Tom Clammer, who is a member of the PSPS.

The Royal Air Force Association marked Armed Forces Day (27 June) by erecting a plaque on BOGNOR REGIS pier commemorating its use as a naval station during World War II. The pier was named HMS Barbara for the duration and the flag now hangs in the RAFA building in Waterloo Square facing the pier.

On the same day over 1,200 swimmers took part in the Pier To Pier race between BOURNEMOUTH and BOSCOMBE to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation.

The Friends of SWANAGE Pier held their annual Fish ‘n’ Chip cruise on 9 July. This comprised a boat trip to Poole with fish ‘n’ chips served on board: just one of many fundraising events the group organize, including the Open Day on 22 August which will feature a Friends’ Art & Craft exhibition and an “Under The Pier” show (a video link with underwater cameras).

An independent survey conducted by the magazine Holiday Which? has placed BLACKPOOL as the Number One holiday destination. BRIGHTON came second and the other places in the Top Ten were (in order) Whitby, Bournemouth, Swanage, Scarborough, Newquay, Torquay, St Ives, Skegness and Great Yarmouth.

(Thanks to Margaret Burgoine, Graham Lambourne, Tim Mickleburgh, Violet Salter, Ken Wisdom and Chris Wyatt for their contributions)