Compiled by Anthony Wills
BIRNBECK PIER SOLD!
WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK has been sold for an undisclosed sum to Mr Wahid Samady, who owns the site of the former adjacent Royal Pier Hotel. The Grade II* listed structure, designed by Eugenius Birch and opened in 1867, has been at the top of the National Piers Society’s list of threatened piers, and also on English Heritage’s Buildings At Risk register, since previous owners Urban Splash (South West) announced that they were unable to restore it owing to current economic conditions
Walton pier up for sale
The 112-year old pier at WALTON-ON-THE-NAZE, Essex, is being put up for sale. It is the third longest in the country. Offers in the region of £2.5 million are being invited. BRIGHTON PALACE, for which the asking price is rumoured to be £25 million, remains on the market.
Boscombe damage worse than expected
Further to our report in PIERS 100 a further investigation has revealed that every single pile in the recently restored BOSCOMBE pier is suffering from hairline cracks. The structure was named Pier Of The Year in 2010 after it reopened following a £2.8 million programme of works. In addition the pier lights have had to be switched off after continually short circuiting. These setbacks come on top of the apparent failure of the artificial surf reef adjacent to the pier’s eastern side, which cost £3 million.
Southend pier head development “downsized” by nesting birds
SOUTHEND’S proposed £3 million cultural centre is having to be scaled down by 20% because of the summer presence of nesting birds known as Ruddy Turnstones. The 364 square metre building, which will be used for conferences, events and exhibitions, will now stand on the empty section of the existing pier-head rather than a new adjacent platform. It will be built on a specially constructed jetty on land and then lifted into place by a crane. It is still hoped to open it in 2012. The Southend Echo welcomed the news in its issue of 25 August. However two weeks later on 6 September a contractor’s 80 ft. barge that was being used to store steel was pushed into the west side of the pier by high winds and heavy swell, causing part of the decking to collapse. Although the pier had to be closed to the public the lifeboat station was not affected.
Mumbles and Beaumaris closed for major works
MUMBLES pier closed on 20 July for about two years to allow the £9.5 million restoration project to begin. John Bollom, managing director of Ameco, who own the pier, said that several sections of its superstructure would have to be removed in order to allow loading tests on the cast iron stanchions. The RNLI is fully involved with the scheme. In North Wales
BEAUMARIS pier on Anglesea is closed to enable some of the major works to proceed, including the installation of a new pontoon (see PIERS 88). The works are due to be completed early in December.
Blackpool North theatre goes dark to begin major refurbishment
BLACKPOOL NORTH, now one of only five working pier theatres left, suspended its programme of shows at the beginning of September in order to complete a major refurbishment in time for next year’s season. These will include improved amenities and working conditions for artists plus the replacement of all the windows that surround the theatre overlooking the sea. The pier’s new owner Peter Sedgwick has said that he is fully committed to the theatre and intends to restore its heritage features. The remainder of the Grade II listed pier is unaffected and will continue to open from 10 a.m. to late in the evening, with live family entertainment in the Carousel Bar.
Weymouth to get i360 tower
Plans to erect a 160ft high i360 tower at the end of WEYMOUTH COMMERCIAL/PLEASURE pier have been approved by the local authority. Merlin Entertainments, who recently finished rebranding the Blackpool Tower, have begun work with a view to opening the structure in time for the Olympic Games, for which Weymouth is hosting the sailing championships.
News from the USA
The Steel Pier in ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey has been put up for auction with a reserve of $2.5 million. The pier dates back to 1898 but suffered severe storm damage in 1904 and devastating fires in 1969 and 1982 which destroyed the remainder of the structure. At one time the pier showcased stars of the calibre of Charlie Chaplin, Benny Goodman, Mae West and Frank Sinatra, but it now consists of 24 rides, games and prize wheels. It is currently operated by Steel Pier Amusements Inc. who lease it from Trump Entertainments, a company in which Donald Trump has only a 10% stake. Atlantic City has suffering from the economic downturn as well as new casinos opening up in other states.
The pier at DAYTONA BEACH (Florida) may look handsome but before it can reopen to the public it will require another $500,000 (£312,500) to repair its 90-year old pilings, bringing the total cost of restoring it to $5 million.
SANTA MONICA (California) pier may see its landing stage, destroyed in a storm in 1983, restored, this time as a floating pontoon which would rise and fall with the tide. The pier was rebuilt to the same length (1,600 ft) as the original structure, reopening in 1990 minus its landing stage. On 31 July this year, as part of Los Angeles County’s Navy Day festivities, 300 US marines were bussed in from Long Beach harbour to enjoy the Santa Monica attractions, and their band gave a concert on the pier.
Hurricane Irene, which hit the East Coast of the United States on 27/28 August, affected JENNETTE’S pier at NAGS HEAD, North Carolina (opened in 1939). And on the other side of the country exceptionally high waves battered the piers at NEWPORT BEACH and OCEAN BEACH, California over the Labor Day weekend at the beginning of September.
The owners of WESTON-SUPER-MARE GRAND are installing a giant glass conservatory on the south deck of the Pavilion building. The conservatory, which will be more than 50 metres long and 10 metres wide, is costing over £250,000. Its roof will open and retract electronically and there will be sliding doors, so that the whole area can be opened up on sunny days. It will also be used for concerts and weddings. It is intended to be ready in time for the half term holiday and provide an excellent viewing point for the pier’s firework display on 5 November. Popular folk group The Wurzels will be appearing on the pier on 11 November.
The pier theatre at BOURNEMOUTH has now gone “dark”. NPS Vice-Chairman Tim Wardley attended the final performance which was a Bon Jovi tribute on 3 September, though there is to be a one-day Jazz Festival on 23 October. Work is expected to start thereafter on levelling the auditorium floor in order to install the RockReef feature. Elsewhere on the pier a disaster was averted on the night of 10/11 September when arsonists pushed a lighted bin down the stairs of a public toilet directly underneath the Aruba club, where 750 revellers were enjoying the music. The club was quickly evacuated.
Simon Opie has been appointed Chief Executive of the HASTINGS Pier & White Rock Trust. A local man, Mr Opie has previously worked for Madame Tussauds and EuroDisney in Paris.
We have been informed that the excellent Beside The Seaside exhibition at BRIDLINGTON closed in September 2010 after twelve years.
An application to the Heritage Lottery Fund is being prepared for an estimated £2.5 million restoration scheme at BANGOR, North Wales. The Grade II* listed structure is owned by cash-strapped Bangor City Council.
A report by Conwy Council has said that the derelict pier pavilion site on the approach to LLANDUDNO pier is unlikely to be redeveloped in the near future unless the pier owners decide what to put there. The pavilion burned down in 1994 and its remains are a blot on a designated conservation area as well as an eyesore for patrons of the Grade II listed Grand Hotel nearby. The Chairman of Llandudno’s Civic Trust has said he would like to see a Museum of the Seaside built on the site. The National Piers Society will be holding its Annual General Meeting in Llandudno next May and the pier manager has said he will attend.
Recent improvements to CLACTON pier since it was sold to the Ball brothers two years ago have included the rebranding of the former Cockney Pride pub as the Boardwalk Bar, which also features an Ocean Diner and takeaway burger bar. A ten pin bowling alley known as The Lanes linked to the bar and amusement arcade opened at Easter. Various guest rides have been installed notably the helterskelter. One of the most appealing attractions for children is the pier’s Seaquarium. Entertainment over the August Bank Holiday weekend included an appearance by chart topping soul singer Jaki Graham and a spectacular fireworks display. There will be further fireworks on 5 November. Visit www.clactonpier.co.uk for further information.
Following completion of the major repairs to RYDE (IOW) pier owners Wight Link have decided to prohibit fishing
A stuntman was injured during the filming of scenes for BBC1’s EastEnders on SOUTHEND pier on 7 June. Tom Rogers, 20, hit his head on a concrete support post after jumping from the pier. He was rescued by the BBC’s own lifeboat which took him ashore where he was transferred by helicopter to Romford hospital. The episode in question was screened on 24 August.
Three piers have suffered minor damage by fire. At BOGNOR REGIS a detached storeroom was set alight by an arsonist, while at SOUTHWOLD an electrical fault in the pier café resulted in a hundred patrons being evacuated while firemen extinguished the resulting blaze. At SOUTHSEA the SOUTH PARADE pier suffered damage to its sub-section after a neighbouring nightclub burned down.
The official sunniest place in the UK, BOGNOR REGIS, received attention on successive days (23/24 June) in the Daily Telegraph, the latter piece written by Clive Aslet of Country Life, with a mention of the National Piers Society. The resort’s unique micro-climate was also the subject of Weather Watch in the Times on 8 August. At around the same time nine former students from the town’s Community College were undertaking a 350-mile charity cycle ride from Bangor to Bognor pier. via Snowdonia, Kidderminster, Burford and Alton. On the way the plucky riders suffered twenty punctures necessitating four new tyres and two changes of bike. Around £3,000 was raised.
19-year old pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, who was the soloist in the opening concert of the 2011 BBC Proms, was interviewed on SOUTHEND pier in a BBC2 documentary shown on 13 August.
Strong winds caused flights to be cancelled at the WORTHING Birdman Rally on 13 August. Flying was possible the next day when the overall winner was Bill Brooks, who also won the National Piers Society’s Birdman trophy plus £3,250 for the longest flight in the Leonardo da Vinci class with a distance of just over 78 metres. The BOGNOR Birdman Rally had to be cancelled entirely on 16/17 July due to adverse weather; it took place instead (in hot sunny weather) on 1 October, but only the Kingfisher (comic) class entrants flew.
Two teenagers sparked a major alert on 13 August when they “tombstoned” off CLACTON pier in rough weather. A beach patrol boat was launched but had to abandon a rescue attempt when it began taking on water. RNLI lifeboats took over and hauled the lads ashore. Two young people were killed jumping off the pier four years ago.
At nearby WALTON-ON-THE-NAZE a man who had got into trouble after jumping off the pier was rescued 30-year old Rob Tuck from Holland-on-Sea.
Flash floods hit Bournemouth and Boscombe on 18 August, causing the Council to advise people not to bathe in the sea due to the risk of untreated sewage in the water. The beach west of BOSCOMBE pier was closed on safety grounds.
The first day of the Bournemouth Air Show had to be cancelled. When it resumed a member of the Red Arrows flight team was killed after crash landing at the end of their display. On 4 September a charity swim between the two piers in aid of the British Heart Foundation sparked a major alarm when nine swimmers were reported missing. Three lifeboats and a helicopter were called out together with emergency lifeboat crews, but the search was called off when the swimmers were accounted for. It is believed they had neglected to check in after completing their swim.
SOUTHPORT pier had to be closed on 19 August after a drinks lorry delivering to the pierhead café fell through the decking and became stuck on its axles.
A free music festival was staged on SOUTHEND pier on 20 August. It was organised by the owners of the Railway Hotel and featured local bands such as the Lucky Strikes. It is hoped to stage the event on an annual basis.
The semi-final of ITV1’s comedy talent show Show Me Some Funny on 22 August came from BLACKPOOL with NORTH pier comedy duo Cannon & Ball among the judges.
MUMBLES pier owner John Bollom and Peter Sedgwick, the new owner of BLACKPOOL NORTH, were interviewed on Radio 4 on 25 August concerning the worrying VAT tax changes announced by the Government in relation to the popular 2p and 10p machines in amusement arcades. The National Piers Society has written to HM Treasury expressing its concern about the proposed Machine Gaming Duty and its implications for the continued viability of some piers, particularly in relation to the loss of VAT credits available under the existing duty arrangements. Similar concerns were expressed to the Secretary of State for Culture and the Tourism Minister. The consultation continues.
The nightclub on CLEETHORPES pier had its licence suspended for four weeks by the police on 28 August following a serious brawl there the previous weekend. Two men leapt 20 feet off the pier after an altercation with other revellers. One of them broke his leg. The suspension comes in the wake of local residents’ concerns as reported in PIERS 100.
BBC2’s lavish dramatisation of Shirley Bassey’s life Shirley, shown on 29 September, featured shots of actress Ruth Negga strolling along PENARTH pier.
A disappointing summer came to a sizzling end in the last week of September when temperatures hit the high 20s. The first weekend of October saw thousands heading for the coast. Pity the poor cast of BBC1’s EastEnders, who had to film Christmas episodes for the soap on CLACTON pier wearing winter coats!
The National Piers Society has approached Royal Mail regarding the possibility of a special stamp issue in 2014 to mark the 200th anniversary of the opening of the first pier (at Ryde IOW).
VisitBritain and VisitEngland have had their budgets cut by 33% over the next three years and the Regional Development Agencies have been abolished. This has resulted in the closure of several Tourist Information Centres in seaside towns. The Prime Minister has said that he would like domestic tourism (people holidaying in Britain) to rise from 33% to 50%.
A report by the Centre for Regional Economic & Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University has found that in terms of employment seaside tourism is comparable to the telecommunications industry and larger than aerospace, the motor industry, pharmaceuticals or steel.
One in ten British beaches would fall below standard and bathing off them banned if stricter EU water standards are introduced in 2015.
And finally… BBC1’s peculiar Sunday night comedy drama series Sugartown, shown over three weeks in August, was filmed in Filey (Yorkshire) with a “pier” superimposed on a view of its bay!
(Thanks to Margaret Burgoine, Mike Davies, Debbie Fox, Tony Glazier, Graham Lambourne, Daphne Lewis, Tim Mickleburgh, Bernard Polley, Mike Wood & Chris Wyatt for their contributions)