Compiled by Anthony Wills

Sea Change list means No Change for piers

No pier resorts benefited from the latest round of Sea Change awards announced by the Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment in mid-November, although ironically Fleetwood, which lost its pier in 2008, is receiving £835,000 for a performance and recreational space along the same stretch of promenade where the doomed structure stood. The largest award was £3.7 million to restore the historic Dreamland amusement park in Margate. Among the unsuccessful bidders was SOUTHEND, which means a re-think of the planned controversial Swedish designed pavilion at its pier head. The winning design by no means found favour with many of the town’s residents. Southend Council, which is bidding to become the UK’s City of Culture in 2013, has committed £100,000 towards some kind of building in its place. They have however rejected a local businessman’s offer to install fairground attractions at both ends of the pier. These would have included a rollercoaster known as the Swine.

Don’t try this at home! Men jump OVER pier!

Two professional kite surfers have fulfilled the dream of a lifetime by successfully jumping over WORTHING pier. Lewis Crafthen, 25, and Jake Scrace, 24, strapped themselves to surf boards and used the power of 40 mph gusts blowing on 16 November to help propel them 60-70 ft. off the ground and 250ft. across the pier from west to east.
See Mail Online story. Mr Crathen described the jump as “epic”, though it was condemned by safety experts as being foolhardy. The pair later appeared as mystery guests on comedian Russell Howard’s wacky BBC3 show.

The battle to save Hastings pier hots up

The Hastings Pier Trust has been buoyed by the turnout for the Save Our Pier march on 17 October. Around 2,000 people turned up to show their support and march to the Town Hall, where a petition was presented. Councillors, however, appear divided as to whether to invoke a Compulsory Purchase Order to force the Panamian-based owners, Ravenclaw Investments, to sell up. After a visit to Hastings on 16 November by Margaret Hodge, Minister for Culture & Tourism, during which the idea of a CPO was discussed with Councillors, the Trust was dismayed to learn nine days later that a £4,000 grant in support of its campaign from the Ministry of the Third Sector had been reallocated elsewhere. The National Piers Society has pledged its support for the campaign and written to the Council. The 1872 structure, described in PIERS 92 as being in mortal danger of collapse, is considered to be the most threatened seaside pier in the UK. Visit the Trust’s website for the latest developments and to join in the fight.

Other news

  • EASTBOURNE pier was taken off the market in late September after having failed to find a buyer. The Grade II* listed structure will continue to be owned and operated by Six Piers Ltd., who have recently been carrying out some repairs. The pier had its best ever season in 2009 and has recently been used in place of Brighton Palace as the location for an updated remake of the classic Graham Greene 1947 thriller Brighton Rock, starring Sam Riley and Helen Mirren.

  • There is still no news on a possible buyer for WESTON-SUPER-MARE BIRNBECK pier, which has been much in the news after being described in PIERS 93 as being in mortal danger. Recognising the gravity of the situation English Heritage has asked the University of Bath to monitor vibrations on the pier caused by wind and waves in order to provide a detailed picture of the damage and highlight the areas requiring immediate repair. The work is being carried out by the local firm Eatec Engineering.

  • Our BLACKPOOL correspondent reports that the local Council are in negotiations with Leisure Parcs to purchase the Tower and Winter Gardens for around £40 million, however the three piers would remain with Trevor Hemmings’ company Cuerden Leisure.

  • On a visit to CLEETHORPES just before Christmas Tory minister William Hague hinted that any future Conservative government might introduce legislation to permit privately owned heritage buildings such as piers to apply for restoration funding.

  • A dramatic lighting display designed by local artists and called Ffosfforescence lit up the 80-year old PENARTH pier pavilion on 5 December. This was in celebration of Penarth Arts & Crafts Ltd. receiving a further £99,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards its proposed restoration, which was doubtless helped by the Let’s Make It Happen poster and leaflet campaign highly visible throughout the town at the time of the Society’s AGM last June. They now have up to two years to submit more detailed plans for the £3.9 million project. Its success would be considerably boosted if plans for a direct walkway between Cardiff Bay and Penarth could be revived; they collapsed in 2007 when the Welsh Assembly said it could not afford the £21.5 million needed for the project.

  • The owner of SOUTHWOLD pier has now submitted plans for a luxury 30-bedroomed hotel with conference facilities. This would replace the previous submission for ten 2-bedroomed apartments, which could only have been occupied during the summer. The existing Beachcomber bar will be replaced with a multi-function room and a new kitchen. The Victorian Society and the Theatres Trust have objected to the plans.

  • The dilapidated Royal Pier Hotel adjacent to CLEVEDON pier was sold prior to auction on 17 December for an undisclosed sum to Bristol-based Freemantle Developments. The Grade II listed hotel, built in 1869, has been empty for five years, since when various planning applications for luxury flats on the site have been submitted and rejected. The condition of the hotel, which has been vandalised on several occasions, is a matter of concern to the Clevedon Pier Trust. North Somerset Council recently stated that if essential work was not put in hand by Christmas they would carry it out and charge the cost to the owners. Freemantle are looking at various options including flats, a newly restored hotel and restaurant or even a care home. On a more cheerful note the Council have set aside £340,000 for a programme of maintenance on the pier itself, once a structural survey has been carried out.

  • Canterbury City Council, which has owned HERNE BAY pier for 100 years, has set aside £425,000 to demolish its rather unattractive 1970s sports pavilion if and when agreement is reached to construct a new fitness “village” elsewhere in the town. This would leave the truncated structure as a completely bare deck. Once one of the longest piers in the country it was severed in a storm in 1978, leaving the pavilion isolated out to sea.

  • BOURNEMOUTH council has rejected an application to install a Big Wheel and a viewing tower at the end of the pier. Openwide International, which runs the Pier Theatre on the council’s behalf, made the suggestions as a way of boosting visitor numbers, which are presently constrained by the 50p toll. The Council has argued that the ideas are impracticable because of lack of space and also interference with the town’s Air Festival.

  • BOGNOR REGIS pier owner John Ayres has installed energy saving lighting picking out the lines of the 1912 entrance building, and intends to keep it switched on throughout the year, unlike the resort’s seafront lights which operate only between Easter and the end of September. This south coast pier now looks spectacular by night and is probably the best illuminated in the country.

  • A new operator is poised to take over the Riva restaurant on GRAVESEND TOWN pier. The previous tenants went bankrupt last spring. Gravesend Town is the oldest cast iron pier in the world and was totally restored in 2002.

  • A party of over 100 members of BALPPA visited WESTON-SUPER-MARE on 15 October to tour the GRAND pier building site. They included a representative from Blackpool Pleasure Beach and John Bollom, owner of MUMBLES pier.

  • Schoolchildren in SKEGNESS have built huge models of local landmarks including the pier, as part of a project entitled Our Place. The enthusiastic children learned about design technology in the process, planning the project from design stage to the selection of suitable materials and the process of construction

  • A huge firework display on SANDOWN (IOW) pier formed a dazzling conclusion to the resort’s Carnival on 5 November. But a similar display at LLANDUDNO was washed out.

  • There were Christmas singalongs on BRIGHTON PALACE pier on Wednesdays in December, hosted by Johnny Wakelin. Those taking part were offered a Christmas lunch for £4.99. On the adjacent derelict WEST pier a mobile viewing station has been set up on the seafront by the RSPB, to assist bird watchers in viewing the daily spectacle of up to 40,000 starlings flying in formation every evening – a phenomenon known as “murmuration” which is at its height over the Christmas period.

  • The Friends of SWANAGE pier held a Christmas Bazaar on 10 December, with a member from Middlesex winning the £100 first prize in the Grand Draw. Among the attractions were a tombola and a Name That Teddy competition, plus the Pier Master’s muolled wine and mince pies. The pier’s lower deck was recently closed off to allow work to be carried out.

  • Another Christmas celebration took place between BOURNEMOUTH and BOSCOMBE piers where more than 50 Father Christmases – including wheelchair entrants and even a dog – raced along the seafront to raise money for local charities. The participants were seen off by Su Pollard and Chris Jarvis, who were appearing in pantomime at the Pavilion Theatre. The winner covered the distance there and back in 20 minutes.

  • CLEVEDON pier mistress Linda Strong was among the daring dippers taking part in the town’s annual New Year’s Day charity swim held in the Marine Lake. The chosen charity for this year’s dip was the pier itself.

  • The Sunday Times of 18 October had an evocative photo of the underside of BRIGHTON PALACE pier, take by Peter Stevens.

  • SOUTHSEA CLARENCE offered 2 unlimited armband rides for the price of 1 over the half term week in October, and a spectacular fireworks display took place there on 24 October.

  • The North Wales Wildlife Trust, which is based at the Marine Awareness kiosk on BANGOR pier, held a discovery session on 24 October with a view to attracting younger volunteers. Training is provided, with support from friendly staff.  Still at Bangor, there has been an outcry at the closure of the public toilets at the pier during the winter months. The toilets are owned by Gwynedd Council but the pier itself belongs to Bangor City Council.

  • The Great British Holiday Adventure, fronted by Alexander Armstrong and shown on BBC1 on 8 November, included archive footage of crowds on the BLACKPOOL piers in their heyday.

  • A 28-year old artist London-based artist is creating a lighting spectacle called Streetlight Storm which will light up DEAL pier. The idea is that the illumination will reflect storms as they happen right across the globe via an antenna at the end of the pier.

  • The first issue of a new monthly magazine, Old Theatres, contains an illustrated article on BRIGHTON PALACE theatre, which was dismantled in 1986 and never reinstated.

  • CROMER pier pavilion has scored something of a coup in booking Brian Fortuna and Christina Rihanoff, two of the professional dancers from the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, for a show on 22 March. Such has been the demand for tickets that a second performance has had to be scheduled the previous evening. Admissions to last season’s Seaside Special were slightly up on 2008, a good result given the impact of the recession. Two of the artists got engaged during the final week of its run. Once again auditions were held to find an act for this year’s production, the winner being 25- year old Lee Gibling with his unusual “beatbox” act, in which he imitates various sounds using his vocal chords. He will join the cast of the 2010 season in June. This well maintained local authority pier, however, still requires considerable annual subsidy, and North Norfolk District Council have decided to introduce filming fees of up to £500 per day in order to provide a little more income.

  • The 2010 WORTHING Birdman Rally will take place over the weekend of 14/15 August.

  • A cycle lane between SOUTHSEA’s two piers will be installed between now and 2011. Councillors have agreed to the scheme despite the loss of 150 parking spaces, as cars will now park sideways instead of facing the sea. Cycling on the promenade will still be banned.

  • Thanks to Margaret Burgoine, David Cheshire, Mike Davies, Debbie Fox, Tim Mickleburgh, Violet Salter, Kenneth Shenton, Mike Wood and Chris Wyatt for their contributions)