Compiled by Tim Wardley.

CLEETHORPES wins Pier of the Year!

In the annual competition members of the National Piers Society voted Cleethorpes Pier winner of the coveted ‘Pier of the Year’ award for 2016.

Taking over from Cromer, last year’s winners, the new function suite and other improvements which have made Cleethorpes such a success story pushed the pier into the top spot beating off stiff competition from Worthing Pier who are worthy runners up for the second year running.

Cleethorpes pier has held a number of highly successful themed events including celebrations of St Patricks Day, Easter, and Mothers Day with business exceeding all expectations.  Congratulations Cleethorpes!.

PRINCE OF WALES DOVER Pier closes for re-development.

The iconic stone structure so much a part of the Dover waterfront for decades closed in early January for re-development as part of the £120 million transformation of Western Docks.  All historic artefacts and salvageable items from railings to lampposts have been saved and stored for future re-instatement.

The project is due to see the pier re-open during 2019 with the landward part becoming a focal point of the waterfront bordering a new marina and retail complex, while the seaward end will become an integral element of a new container dock.

APPG for seaside piers moves closer to fruition

Following a highly productive and successful meeting at the House of Commons in February with Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, Tim Wardley and Anya Chapman are working on proposals for an All Party Parliamentary Group within parliament to serve the interests of our seaside piers. This development follows on from our successful negotiations with the Department for Communities and Local Government last year.

Mr Aldous was enthusiastic about the prospects for an APPG and willing to spearhead the initiative in parliament.  In the event of  the successful formation of a group the NPS would define its remit and adopt responsibility for its administration. Sounding-out of the numerous coastal MP’s will be ongoing through the summer to see if the required framework for an APPG can be met. Exciting times indeed for our seaside piers!

NPS Patron Timothy West endorses WESTON BIRNBECK restoration plans

On a visit to Weston Super Mare, actor and  NPS Patron Timothy West added his support to the campaign to restore the iconic Birnbeck pier. ” I have enjoyed long associations with the town and enjoyed holidays here frequently when I was a resident of Bristol during the war”, he explained.

“I have fond memories of the steamer services from here down the Channel to Ilfracombe and Lundy. The pier is a wonder of engineering and must be saved”.  Its loss, he added, would be ‘significant’.

Meanwhile a section of the North Jetty, already damaged by storms, collapsed during gales in the New Year. A representative of the pier Trust commented that the collapse was ‘not unexpected’, adding the North Jetty was already beyond saving. A Heritage Lottery Fund application currently being formulated is regarded as the last chance to save Birnbeck Pier.

The Birnbeck Pier Regeneration Trust, a registered charity, has launched a drive to raise £40,000 to carry out surveys into the condition of the crumbling pier and look at the feasibility of projects to bring the structure back into use.

NPS advises stakeholders at Lowestoft regeneration meeting

In early March the National Piers Society, represented by Tim Wardley & Anya Chapman, were invited to address the full meeting of the Lowestoft Rising board, a group of stakeholders committed to the re-generation of Lowestoft seafront and its two piers.  The invitation  was extended by Waveney MP Peter Aldous whom had met with NPS Trustees previously to discuss ways of increasing the town’s tourist potential.

Various topics were discussed including the need for a cohesive strategy, funding and revenue streams, and the need for the two piers to complement each other in the attractions they offered.  The Society envisages Claremont Pier offering the family attractions expected of a seaside town, while South Pier could form the nucleus of a cultural hub hosting special events and bespoke local interest activities ranging from local produce and beverages through to arts and crafts.  The day’s inspection concluded with a meeting of the South Pier Trust board and a pledge from the NPS to continue assisting wherever possible to ensure the regeneration  scheme met its full potential.

BOURNEMOUTH pier landing stages called into doubt

Reduced commercial interest and increased silting are two factors resulting in the viability of Bournemouth pier’s landing stages being called into question. 2015 was the first season since the war when there were no local boat operators offering cruises from the pier prompting Bournemouth councillor Phil Stanley-Watts to question council leader John Beesley about the future of cruises from Bournemouth.   Cllr Beesley responded by affirming the council’s intention to keep the Eastern landing stage open and available to visiting ships. PS Waverley is scheduled to call at the pier in September but MV Balmoral, in its return to South Coast cruising under White Funnel, is focusing its operations at Swanage , the Isle of Wight and Southampton. It is unknown at the time of writing if any local operator has been found to resume a local summer service from the pier.

Fishing suffers at Llandudno & Eastbourne piers

Night fishing may have to be prohibited at Llandudno pier due to rising insurance costs. Pier manager Simon Mason said other possibilities were being explored but the huge rise in insurance premiums for ‘out of hours’ activities on the pier meant that discontinuing night fishing was possibly the only option.  In other developments fishing finished completely on Eastbourne Pier at the end of February as the landing stages and decking at the seaward end are about to be fully re-furbished for the resumption of pleasure steamer services and al-fresco eating for families. The old bait and tackle shed has been demolished in the first phase of re-development.

FELIXSTOWE pier re-development due to begin in 2016

Exciting plans for the complete re-development of Felixstowe Pier are due to begin during Autumn 2016. A special task force of planners, councillors and engineers has been set up to ensure the project begins on schedule. Over 20 separate planning and licensing applications have to be co-ordinated before contractors begin work and a special force was considered the best way of ensuring all the elements come together effectively.

The long awaited re-development of the pier will include a 39 metre entrance building with attractions geared towards families including an entertainment centre, restaurant and retail outlets. The striking design pays homage to the Art Deco era and traditional pier pavilions. The walkway out to sea will also be re-conditioned for promenading. Owner Stan Threadwell commented that if the new structure was a success it would be possible to extend it even further with added amenities and attractions.  The timeline is for work to begin in Autumn 2016 for a May 2017 grand re-opening. Watch this space!

DUNOON Pier restoration completed

The major restoration of Dunoon Pier has been completed with a public re-opening held in April. Arguably the finest remaining example of a wooden Victorian pier in Scotland, Argyll & Bute Council have spent £2.8 million on the refurbishment which has seen the replacement of 68 wooden piles, decking, and full restoration of the ornate waiting rooms which are now a multi functional community asset. The Council intend lobbying for further funds at national level for bringing other areas of the pier complex back into public use.

PRINCES PIER Torquay decking refurbishment underway

Torbay Council have begun the work of replacing over 400 square meters of hardwood decking on Princes Pier. The work is being completed in stages allowing the pier to remain open throughout the works.  In other developments the underwater repairs to the base of the pier caused by erosion has resumed after the winter pause. This work is being funded by the Environment Agency. Together with new seating and railings the full refurbishment of the pier will ensure it remains a popular attraction to both residents and tourists for many years to come.

Remedial work completed on WEYMOUTH Pier

Remedial works to the structure  of Weymouth pleasure pier have been completed over a six week period.  Much of the work has been to improve the condition of the concrete sub-structure to allow continued public access. The repairs were budgeted in the Peninsular improvements programme but the long term future of the 80 year old structure remains uncertain as the concrete is approaching life expiry.  This year will see visits by both PS Waverley and MV Balmoral to the pier for pleasure cruises.

SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER re-development moves closer to commencement

It is all change for Red Funnel ferries as they vacate their long established berth alongside the derelict Royal Pier and move to brand new facilities at Trafalgar Dock, allowing re-development of the wider area within the Royal Pier re-development.  The entire scheme, comprising of 50 shops, office and residential complexes, restaurants, bars, cultural hub and possibly a casino will transform the area at an eye-watering £450 million pound price tag.

Land reclamation will also allow the Mayflower Park to be expanded and a new Spitfire memorial dedicated. Work may commence as early as this year with full completion anticipated by 2023, subject to funding and planning. Red Funnel were quoted as being ‘delighted’ to be able to bring all their services together at one location and improve their customer experience when the Trafalgar Dock complex is completed.

CLEVEDON PIER visitor centre nears completion

The new £2.25 million state of the art visitors centre on Grade 1 listed Clevedon Pier is nearing completion at the time of writing, funded by £720,000 HLF grant, £825,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund and £250,000 from a community share issue organised by the Pier Trust.

The new facility is made of  strengthened safety glass allowing unspoilt views of the Victorian pier and houses a host of attractions including a tea room, public toilets, shop and exhibition area, a community and education function room and a top deck viewing platform. It also features an under-deck porthole window and the stone pediment surround matches exactly the stone used to build the pier Toll House in the 1860s.

More of BRIGHTON WEST Pier collapses following Storm Imogen

Another section of the skeletal remains of Brighton West Pier collapsed and disappeared into the sea following Storm Imogen on February 11th.  A section of the central part of the skeleton was the latest casualty of the weather. Rachel Clarke, Chief Executive of the West Pier Trust, commented that the latest collapse was not a huge surprise given the severity of the storm.

Meanwhile the West Pier Trust was placed firmly in the spotlight in an article in The Argus of 20 February when the Trust and its members were subjected to close scrutiny over their new plans to build a “modern” West Pier which would ‘reflect the city’.  The Trust are currently drawing up plans to guide planners and architects in anticipation of increased interest once the i360 tower opens in the summer. The idea has not met with universal approval as some of the business community wish to see private enterprise taking over the project while the local MP thinks any new development should move westwards to spread wealth and visitor appeal across the city.

A new pier for Hove?

Hot on the heels of the suggestion that the West Pier Trust should re-locate its plans to the west of its proposed pier site comes the news that Hove could get its own pier anyway.  Local MP Peter Kyle is holding talks with a developer interested in building a promenade pier extending from the rear of the current Art Deco King Alfred Leisure Centre.

Mr Kyle commented  “Ever since the demise of West Pier I’ve talked openly about a new, modern pier in Hove. It demonstrates to the world we are now one united city. It adds symmetry and balance with Palace Pier at one end and the i360 in the middle”.

Council announces £20 million re-development for SOUTHEND Pier

Southend Council, owners of the world’s longest pleasure pier have announced they are “going it alone” in a £20 million re-development and restoration of the world famous structure.  In a surprise move the Council are no longer pursuing private investors, but instead set up a trading company, Southend Pier Ltd, which will be supported by Council funds for the next five years with profits being re-invested into the pier.

£150,000 is earmarked for planning and feasibility studies next year. Plans include re-development of the pier entrance facilities by replacing the bowling alley lost in a fire which will house a restaurant, entertainment and community attractions, new pier trains to replace the life expired rolling stock, and almost £5million of repairs to the structure of the pier.

Council leader Ron Woodley said ” this is just the start, we have many more ideas for developing the pier as income allows”.  The pier currently attracts 325,000 visitors a year and the £20 million figure will be made up from borrowing and re-invested revenue.

NPS Chairman meets with EASTBOURNE Pier owner

National Piers Society Chairman Tim Wardley met with the new owner of Eastbourne Pier, Sheikh Abid Gulzar, and  Chairman for the East Sussex Economic Advisory Board, Lord Brett Mclean recently to discuss development plans for the Birch masterpiece.  They were joined by Rory Holburn, Director of Openwide Coastal and the brainchild of the RockReef and Zipwire attractions at Bournemouth Pier.

Following a full tour of the pier where Mr Wardley was shown the extent of restoration work, currently running at £250,000, several issues were discussed including potential plans for additional attractions to the pier, the restoration of the landing stages for pleasure cruises, and potential funding sources for investment.  Visits to Worthing and Bournemouth piers as “fact finding” missions are also being arranged by the NPS.

Tim Wardley said after the meeting ” I enjoyed a long discussion with Sheikh Gulzar during which time we had a frank, open and honest discussion about his ideas for moving the pier forward. I am left in no doubt that he is a man of integrity and full understanding of the responsibilities of owning one of the finest piers in the country.  His plans for Eastbourne Pier are both dynamic and good for the resort, whilst being sympathetic to the heritage of the pier. We as a Society look forward to working with Mr Gulzar and his team as they progress their plans for the benefit of the community and the town”.

MV Balmoral returns to the Thames and South Coast piers for 2016

In a most welcome announcement Balmoral Fund Ltd and White Funnel have announced that MV Balmoral, Britain’s most popular and widely travelled pleasure cruise ship, will be making a triumphant return to the South Coast and River Thames this season after an absence of three years.

Balmoral directors are keen to ensure piers are used for cruises instead of coach connections to ports and harbours as has become  the increasing custom in recent years. Accordingly, Worthing Pier will see its first pleasure cruise for several seasons when Balmoral docks on June 7th for a Sussex Coast cruise to Southampton.  Remedial work to the landing stage at Worthing is underway to ensure her safe arrival. It is also hoped the landing stage will be readied at Eastbourne Pier to enable her to call there on the morning of June 7th with what will be the first pleasure steamer call for many years.

In total this season MV Balmoral is planning to utilise Swanage, Yarmouth, Weymouth, Worthing, Eastbourne, Southend, Tilbury, Gravesend, Clacton, Southwold, Ilfracombe, Penarth and Clevedon piers in addition to many more river piers, ports and harbours.  The National Piers Society is working closely with White Funnel to ensure as many pleasure piers as possible are available for MV Balmoral to serve as part of her commitment to support coastal communities around Great Britain as a recipient of Coastal Communities Funding for that purpose. Come and support the cruises and help ensure a bright future for both our piers and MV Balmoral. Full details of 2016 cruises can be found at

Other news

NPS Chairman visits Worthing pier and samples beer!

In a recent visit to Worthing Pier, Tim Wardley and Lord Brett McLean (Chairman for the East Sussex Economic Advisory Board) viewed the magnificent Art Deco Southern Pavilion, brainchild of entrepreneur Philip Duckett. The pair were presented with gift packs of exclusive Southern Pavilion bottled beer, which is proving a big hit with visitors to the pier.

The Southern Pavilion has become a firmly established popular venue for weddings, exhibitions, live entertainment, and just simply taking tea while enjoying the unrivalled views out to sea over what Philip describes as ‘the Worthing med’. Attracting the top names in Jazz and Blues to its regular gig nights, the venue is one of the great successes of recent times.  Lord McLean commented he was “blown away by the stunning beauty of the building, and would be taking many ideas back to Eastbourne for consideration”.

World record breaking British Airways i360 at Brighton nears completion

The British Airways i360 tower on the seafront at the entrance to the old West Pier at Brighton is rapidly nearing completion with the assembly and installation of the all glass viewing pod, which weighs-in at 94 tons. The pod consists of 24 individual hand crafted sections of specially toughened concave glass.  The tower which stands as Brighton’s tallest building is expected to open in the summer when visitors can expect panoramic views 450 feet above sea level. The tower has already made it into the world record books as the thinnest structure in the world with a build ratio of 41.15 – to one. Up to 200 passengers will be able to enjoy views for a radius of up to 26 miles on the clearest of days.

Ferris Wheels galore at Southsea!

Clarence Pier at Southsea has been granted planning permission for its newest attraction – a giant Ferris Wheel. The wheel, costing £750,000, has been manufactured in Italy  and  features a VIP gondola. Permission has been granted for the wheel to be sited adjacent to the Golden Horseshoe arcade and will look onto Pier Road. The attraction was due to open over the Easter period.  In a separate move nearby Southsea South Parade pier owners have announced their own plans for a large Ferris Wheel possibly for the America’s Cup sailing event later in the summer.

RockReef attraction on Bournemouth Pier wins award

The RockReef adventure attraction housed in the old theatre on Bournemouth Pier has scooped up a coveted award, and the accolade ‘Best Time Out’ in the Bournemouth Tourism Awards on March 1.  The award was presented to the manager, Fi Sellwood at the ceremony in the Bournemouth International Centre.

Pier general manager Peter Collett said he was ” delighted to accept the award for the second year running”  adding, ” the past twelve months have seen a packed programme of events and activities taking place with charity zipwire runs also raising large sums of money for worthy causes”.   He looked forward to an even more successful 2016 season.

Improvement works continue apace at Llandudno Pier

Adam Williams, who purchased the iconic pier last May, has so far invested over £700,000 in improvements and refurbishments to the pier. Much of the money has been spent upgrading the substructure and  landing stage but a considerable sum is also being spent on restoring the entrance buildings as a part of continued upgrades and refurbishments which will see the entire length of the pier restored on a rolling process.

Adam explained “The entrance is so important to the pier and we wanted to invest in smartening this up. The floors were rotten on the existing buildings so work had to be done and at the same time we are giving them a complete facelift.”  The entrance buildings were removed by low loader lorry and cranes and returned to the pier fully restored.  Other improvements for the Easter season included new amusement machines, and re-painting work. It is hoped new lighting which is more sympathetic to the  heritage of the pier will be installed during the summer as a part of Adam’s ongoing improvements.

To fly no more……

The world famous spectacle of the Worthing International Birdman Rally has been grounded, at least temporarily, as budget cuts are implemented and funding is diverted into other areas of the town needing investment. The annual event has been held at Worthing Pier for the past eight years, drawing large crowds to the resort and raising money for many charities.

Bognor Pier Trust going from strength to strength

Bognor Pier Trust is about to sign up its 750th member – well on the way to its goal of 1000 members as it launches its Heritage Lottery bid to restore the  pier to its former glory. The Trust has visibly increased its presence with regular stalls and information stands in the town and a dedicated information hub on the pier. It is anticipated the Trust will submit their lottery bid later in the year. The Trust visited Worthing Pier in early March and held their board meeting in the Art Deco Southern Pavilion which provided much inspiration for their own plans.

Recruitment at seaside piers provides welcome employment

The National Piers Society has long argued that piers contribute greatly to the tourism and economy of the towns they serve and this view has been underpinned by the range of employment opportunities announced by many seaside piers up and down the country. Hastings Pier were holding a volunteer recruitment day on March 8th, Cromer Pier held a special recruitment day on February 18th with job vacancies in all aspects of the pier operation including front of house, theatre, restaurant and gift shop. Clacton Pier held a recruitment day on February 10 and anticipates employing 200 staff through the summer, the largest number ever,  and  Worthing Southern Pavilion has also been recruiting bar and catering staff for the summer.

Video launched to help save Colwyn Bay Victoria pier

A new promotional video has been released to show the beauty and deterioration of the pier by Mark Pavey of the Colwyn Bay Pier Trust in an attempt to highlight the plight of the structure as the Trust prepare to mount a second Heritage Lottery Fund bid.  The video is set to the atmospheric backing track of ‘Our Prayer’ by 60’s pop icon Brian Wilson.

Colwyn Victoria Pier Trust appealed for residents to join the fight by donating to its new campaign, Save The Pier 2016. The aim is to pay for a professional team to help with a new Heritage Lottery Fund application.

And finally……

As tributes poured in following the death of pop superstar David Bowie,  music promoter Philip Haines recalled booking the star at the start of his career for a gig at Southsea South Parade Pier Theatre on March 4 1972.  In one of his first appearances as his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, Bowie played to a modest audience for a fee of £250!.


Eastbourne Pier’s flamboyant owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar featured in a special edition of BBC1’s Inside Out programme.  A bio-documentary was created from footage filmed by BBC TV crews over a ten-day period during January with the programme airing on 25th January.

Never a one to hog the limelight, Tim Wardley found himself covered by three separate newspapers on the same day during his meeting with Sheikh Abid Gulzar on January 28 at Eastbourne.  The Eastbourne Independent, Bexhill Observer, and Argus all carried lengthy editorials about his visit with Rory Holburn of Openwide Coastal.

The Southend Echo carried front page and inside double page story about the £20 million refurbishment announced by Southend Council for the iconic pier in their edition of February16. The story was also covered in detail by several other newspapers in Essex.

BBC4 repeated the interesting documentary about coastal excursion steamers on February 16 at 10.00pm. Timeshift; The People’s Liners first aired back in October 2015 and featured historical shots of  the steamer fleets of yesteryear, interviews with crew, captains and passengers, and concluded with the story of the return to service of MV Balmoral. Although there were few shots of actual piers, the relationship between piers and steamers was well portrayed.

The Daily Telegraph travel supplement carried a lavish and well illustrated article entitled ‘What you didn’t know about Britain’s quirkiest piers’ on February 24.  Although riddled with errors and no mention of the Society, the article made an interesting read.