Compiled by Anthony Wills
Cleethorpes finds a saviour: now it’s Paignton’s turn
The 140-year old pier at CLEETHORPES has been leased to a group of local businessmen led by Bryan Huxford, who owns Humberside-based airline Eastern Airways. Mr Huxford reopened it on 27 July, paying £80,000 for a one year lease, and has undertaken to run it as a commercial venture, with any profit being used to maintain it. He plans to close the bar and nightclub and turn it back into an old-fashioned Victorian pier, which he intends to hand over to a community initiative group eligible to apply for heritage funding. There would even be the possibility of restoring some of its original length of 1,200 ft. For further information visit the new website www.thepiercleethorpes.co.uk
Meanwhile the 134-year old PAIGNTON pier in Devon has been placed on the market by UK Piers Ltd., who also own SKEGNESS pier. No guide price has been given.
Southampton Royal restoration plan “closer to reality”
The 180-year old ROYAL pier at SOUTHAMPTON, which was destroyed by fire in the 1990s and has lain derelict ever since, could undergo a major restoration after an agreement was signed on 27 September by owners Associated British Ports and Southampton City Council. Developers Morgan Sindall Investments Limited 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 placed 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 to make way.
Hastings handed over
HASTINGS pier was formally handed over to the Hastings Pier Trust on 14 August in the presence of the Rt Hon Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, as well as local MP Amber Rudd. The Trust has secured funding from the Heritage Lottery and Coastal Communities Funds, Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council. Television cameras filmed the gates being unlocked. Simon Opie, Chief Executive Officer of the Hastings Pier Charity, which will oversee the restoration, said:“We want to offer a 21st century take on the traditional English pier and for it to be used often by locals and visitors alike, a People’s Pier”. Peter Chowney, the Council’s lead member for regeneration, said: “Today is a very important day in the history of Hastings pier and a real cause for celebration. The pier is in local ownership and the money is in place to restore it.”
Colwyn Bay plans secure more funding
COLWYN BAY Town Council has contributed £20,000 towards the development phase of the VICTORIA pier project, which it is hoped will lead to a £5 million grant being awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This was despite five members of the 16-strong Committee, including the Mayor of Colwyn Bay, raising concerns about the contribution, which had been requested by the Head of Business and Enterprise at Conwy Council. Samantha Mottram of the Victoria Pier Pressure Group commented: “With the commitment from both County and Town Councils, together with Shore Thing and this group, the future of the pier has never looked brighter”.
Swanage emergency appeal raises repair money
Urgent repairs to SWANAGE pier have been carried out after an appeal in March raised £60,000. £20,000 was raised locally, including by local schools. An additional £39,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled repairs to begin on 20 August. Derek Tarrant, chairman of the Pier Trust, said: “The pier has received an unprecedented level of support since the appeal began in March and we have been overwhelmed by public generosity.” The NPS donated £250 to the appeal and also purchased a plaque.
No takers for Scheveningen
An auction of Scheveningen pier planned for 21 September was cancelled due to a lack of firm offers. Ten companies had registered an interest in buying the Dutch pier, which had been placed into administration at the beginning of the year, but none decided to proceed. The local council therefore decided in October that the pier would have to be closed on safety grounds.
“Poor worksmanship” blights newly restored Beaumaris
Anglesey councillors have strongly criticised officers for failing to address defects on BEAUMARIS pier after it was enlarged and restored at a cost of £4 million last year. Among the faults identified were missing bolts, rusty nails, restricted access to private moorings and overflowing waste bins which have attracted rats. The Council said it would raise these issues with the contractor but wait until the winter, as the pier would have to be closed for up to six weeks while repairs were being carried out.
New Cromer General Manager starts work
The new General Manager of CROMER pier is 32-year old Rebecca Wass, whose experience includes working at York’s Theatre Royal and Sunderland Empire. One of her innovations this summer has been to introduce a number of free family events on the pier deck including an Alice In Wonderland adventure, busking competitions and storytellers. The entertainment was organized in conjunction with the cast of Seaside Special who ran children’s shows on Saturday mornings during the school holidays. The £1.2 million programme of repairs to the pier has finally been completed after being delayed by poor weather conditions which have seen workers with 44lb jack hammers being tossed into the water by strong tides. Specially-mixed concrete had to be carried along the deck in powered wheelbarrows and funnelled down a pipe to the divers below, who poured it into the sleeves protecting the piles. The work had to be carefully scheduled to avoid interrupting shows in the Pavilion Theatre. This latest scheme was the biggest to be undertaken since the pier was sliced in half by a runaway rig in 1993. North Norfolk District Council, which owns the 90-year old structure, have made a firm pledge to continue to maintain it in good order. Seaside Special ended its run on 28 September. Christmas Seaside Special, starring Cromer favourite Olly Day, will run from 30 November – 29 December.
Worthing pier’s Southern Pavilion to get total makeover
Councillors have been advised to approve plans to renovate the 1930s art deco Southern Pavilion on WORTHING pier. Businessman Phillip Duckett was the local authority’s preferred bidder after the site was put out to tender and has proposed transforming the Grade II listed building into a venue for weddings, business events and private parties as well as a cafe and tea rooms. It is expected that this could create up to 15 jobs. The new designs include restoring the original historic character of the art deco interior and removing a modern false ceiling in order to expose the original plasterwork. Mr Duckett estimates that the makeover would take about four months and cost up to £130,000, with the Council contributing £90,000 for improvements to the exterior of the Grade II listed building.
Bognor Regis Pier Trust gets going
The newly formed BOGNOR REGIS Pier Trust was officially launched in style at a well attended Caribbean-themed party on the pier’s Conservatory Bar terrace on 1 September. Ticket holders enjoyed a hog roast with salad and ice cream washed down with rum punch while listening to the award-winning Littlehampton Academy Steel Band and being entertained by limbo dancers. There was a costume competition and raffle and the event was generously sponsored by Sainsburys and various local businesses. Councillor Paul Wells, who is the Chairman of the Trust and also the Town Mayor, said the time was ripe for a fresh effort to be put into securing funding. Anthony Wills, who attended the launch on behalf of the National Piers Society, said that the 200th anniversary of piers in 2014 and the 150th anniversary of Bognor pier itself in 2015 provided timely pegs for funding applications to be drawn up. For further details and to become a member visit www.bognorpiertrust.org.uk
200th anniversary of piers coming up
All UK piers are being contacted in October to point out that 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of piers and invite them to consider organizing special events which the Society will undertake to publicize. They will also be asked for their opinion on having a National Piers Day as has happened in the past.
The summer of 2013 has been the warmest, driest and sunniest since 2006, the Met Office revealed, and could be among the Top Ten warmest since records began in 1910. The UK also enjoyed above average sunshine, with 588 hours being recorded, making 2013 the seventh sunniest summer since measuring began in 1929. Most of the country experienced a 19-day heat wave in July. Approximately 189mm of rain fell, around three-quarters of the average.
Lincolnshire County Council’s £1.2 million bid to the European Regional Development Fund for a canopy linking the pier at SKEGNESS to Botton’s Pleasure Beach has been turned down.
The long-closed boating lake next to FELIXSTOWE pier has been drained, cleared of rubbish and had its perimeter wall painted, in order to smarten up the area. In the long term it will be needed as a compound once work gets under way on rebuilding the pier.
HERNE BAY pier has been a hive of activity this summer thanks to the efforts of the Friends. The presenter Sandi Toksvig launched the beach hut village on 6 July, with twelve stallholders selling everything from arts and crafts to ice cream. In addition there were a number of temporary art installations including a urinal and a supersize helter skelter, which proved popular with families. The season concluded with a Party On The Pier on 7 September but special events are still being organized including a Hallowe’en week (19-27 October), Guy Fawkes celebration (2-3 November), Go-Kart racing (9-10 November), British-style Thanksgiving weekend (23-24 November) and Christmas Markets throughout December.
The SOUTHPORT pier tram service was temporarily suspended on 9 July after vertical cracks were found in the supporting cast iron columns during a routine inspection. It returned to service on 6 August.
Two Shakespeare comedies were performed on 12/13 July in SOUTHEND pier’s Cultural Centre (since renamed the Royal Pavilion by the Duke of Kent). The Southend Shakespeare Company presented their summer production of The Merry Wives Of Windsor followed by MadCap Productions’ version of The Taming Of The Shrew.
More than 1,500 people turned up at an Open Day held on 20 July in the Pavilion on PENARTH pier. The official reopening date is scheduled for 4 December. The completely renovated building will contain exhibition and learning spaces, a 70-seat cinema, restaurant/cafe and a spiral staircase leading to an observation tower. For up-to-date information visit www.penarthpavilion.co.uk
14-year old Eloise Tyler was one of 100 musical theatre students to join Strictly Come Dancing star Kristina Rihanoff on BRIGHTON PALACE pier on 21 July in performing Surf’s Up as part of a promotion for Disney’s latest Teen Beach movie.
The Friends of RAMSEY QUEEN’S (IOM) held their Annual General Meeting on 7 August: the island’s Chief Minister was in attendance. He confirmed that the pier had been stabilised but that no further money was available to restore and reopen it to the public. The Friends have pledged to continue to keep a watchful eye on developments.
Hazel Preller and her husband Jay visited several piers in August & September to promote their new book From Piers To Eternity, which describes their fulfilment of an ambition to kiss on every pier.
Delays in restoring the landing stage on LLANDUDNO pier meant that the Waverley paddlesteamer was unable to call there in September. The stumbling blocks are thought to have been the handing over of the monies pledged by various funding bodies as well as licensing issues. The opening of the landing stage had originally been scheduled for May.
A bottle thrown into the sea off BRIGHTON PALACE pier by Thomas Allen and his girlfriend Sonia in June caused a media frenzy after it washed up on Omaha beach in Normandy. Decoding experts from Bayeux were called in to decipher the sender’s address, which had become smudged during the Channel crossing. It turned out to be Canadian and a French reporter rang the number and spoke to Sonia’s mother, who in turn called her daughter with the news. Thomas and Sonia were subsequently invited as guests of honour to a special ceremony in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont on 19 July.
Among the entries for Building Design’s annual list of the ugliest buildings in Britain was the so-called “Vertical Pier” on REDCAR seafront (now known as The Beacon). The eventual “winner” of the Carbuncle Cup was 465 Caledonian Road, London N1, a new student accommodation block. The Redcar Pier Association is trying to raise funds to replace the real pier, which opened in 1873 and was demolished in 1981.
WALTON pier is designating 6 October as Grandparents’ Day. They will be entitled to use the Lanes Bowling Centre free of charge and also receive a cup of tea in the Jolly Roger cafe.
The eighth HARWICH Sea Shanty Festival takes place on 11-13 October with concerts, pub sessions and barge trips from the HA’PENNY pier. For further information visit www.harwichshantyfestival.co.uk
The June issue of Best of British magazine contained a well-illustrated feature by Tony Jones on BRIGHTON’s three piers (Chain, West and Palace). Tony’s mother worked in the Deck cafe on Palace pier in 1974, serving, among others, Telly Savalas and Christine Keeler.
Daily Telegraph journalist Matthew Sweet took a detailed look at CROMER pier’s long-running Seaside Special show on 5 July, interviewing members of the cast and show management during rehearsals. In a well researched and largely sympathetic piece he looked back at the history of summer shows, from legendary concert parties such as The Fol de Rols to old-fashioned stand-up comics including Ken Dodd and the late Bill Pertwee.
The Times of 27 July had a prominent and upbeat story on the “renaissance” of piers complete with images of WORTHING and WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND and a quote from the Society’s acting Media Relations Officer Anya Chapman. The article focussed on the acquisition of CLEETHORPES pier by airline boss Bryan Huxford but also mentioned restoration schemes elsewhere both past and present.
Dame Joan Bakewell, in the Telegraph of 31 August, was less optimistic about the future of piers, which she described as “defiant survivors and an all year round pleasure”. The article was illustrated by a striking image of CLEVEDON.
The Travel section of the Sunday Express on 28 July had a feature by Dinah Hatch extolling the delights of CROMER including, of course, its pier.
BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcast a three hour BRIGHTON extravaganza, hosted by Tony Lidlington of Pier Productions on 24 August, including archive programmes going as far back as 1937. In between he chatted to a variety of experts and enthusiasts.
The Financial Times Weekend Magazine for 24/25 August led with a major feature on photographer Simon Roberts’ new book Pierdom. Its front cover showed BRIGHTON PALACE pier and ten other piers (including two sites of lost piers) were included in the twelve page spread inside. There was however NO mention of the National Piers Society!
A report published in August revealed the ten most deprived seaside towns in England. Researchers looked at the 57 largest seaside resorts in the UK and assessed a number of things including income, employment, health, crime, and the environment. The resorts are (in order): SKEGNESS, BLACKPOOL, CLACTON, HASTINGS, Ramsgate, Seaham, Margate, Hartlepool, GREAT YARMOUTH and South Shields. Most of the towns are being used as “dumping grounds” for people who have been moved there by local authorities or have mental issues.
Coincidentally the 11 August issue of the Independent On Sunday highlighted the problems facing CLACTON (but NOT its highly successful pier), which has recently been dubbed “Poverty On Sea”. The article included reminiscences by Jane Smith, who has worked in the Jolly Roger cafe at the end of the pier for 32 years.
The leader of Tendring District Council in Essex was uneasy about plans for a naked fun run along CLACTON sea front. This follows a naked swim in June and a naked bike ride in which 36 riders took part. The police said they would raise no objection in principle.
With thanks to Margaret Burgoine, Anya Chapman, Daphne Leach, Tim Mickleburgh, Tim Phillips, Tim Wardley, Chris Wyatt and Steve Wilkinson for their contributions