December 6 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
East Anglia’s piers are surviving and thriving – despite a report that suggests that many of the nation’s seaside landmarks are run down and under threat.
The report by the trade association Co-operatives UK paints a bleak picture, saying too many are in private hands and are too expensive to insure and maintain.
The report calls for a clutch of piers to be moved from private ownership to the hands of local people, social enterprises or charities.
But, as is so often the case, Norfolk and north Suffolk are swimming against the tide of decline – and their splendid sextet of piers are more popular than ever.
From Cromer in the north, via Great Yarmouth’s Britannia and Wellington, taking in Lowestoft’s Claremont and South piers and finally the superb Southwold pier, they offer a range of attractions. The piers are a magnet for visitors, and provide a base for activities that evoke the seaside holiday heyday with a 21st century twist.
Co-operatives UK flags up the problem of rising maintenance and insurance costs.
But at Cromer, pier owner North Norfolk District Council is in the middle of a £1.2m refurbishment that shows that the 112-year-old jetty will not be left to rot.
Rhodri Oliver, NNDC’s deputy leader, said: “Cromer Pier continues to be an iconic attraction of which the district is rightly proud, boasting a fantastic theatre and panoramic views.”
Great Yarmouth’s piers still play a significant role in the resort’s tourism industry, both under the ownership of Felixstowe-based firm Family Amusements.
Britannia Pier is dominated by its theatre, which keeps alive the tradition of seaside shows throughout the season. Wellington Pier perhaps represents a model for creating a sustainable modern-day business from a Victorian relic. Following years of decline, Family Amusements carried out a multi-million pound revamp with the help of Heritage Lottery Fund cash.
A decade on, the pier is home to a bowling alley and other attractions including amusements and a café.
Lowestoft’s South Pier was built as part of the harbour construction works and dates from 1846. It is 1,320ft and in the mid-1950s, a miniature railway ran the length of it.
The pier underwent a major refurbishment programme in 2008 and now describes itself as an all encompassing family entertainment complex.
Lowestoft’s Claremont Pier was constructed in 1902 and was used as a landing stage for Belle steamers. An extensive restoration plan was announced in 1988 but although the shoreward end amusements were renovated, the rest of the pier was not and the unsafe seaward end has remained closed.
And Southwold Pier is an example of how to make heritage treasures sparkle in the 21st century.
Report author Jess Steele said that while seaside piers made us smile, negligent owners threatened their future, saying: “We believe that there is a new option, now being pioneered for Hastings Pier, which is to take piers into local community ownership.”
Hastings Borough Council bought Hastings Pier using a compulsory purchase order after up to 95pc of the East Sussex pier was burnt out in an October 2010 arson attack.
The National Piers Society said many landmarks were already benefiting from a rise in availability of Heritage Lottery Fund money.
The society’s president, Gavin Henderson said that among Britain’s piers, a handful were in tip-top condition and a handful were falling down, and “there’s a whole lot in the middle that could do with a lot more maintenance, that are holding on for dear life”.