Weston Mercury: MP & Trust vow to continue Birnbeck Pier mission

A COMMUNITY group battling to save Birnbeck Pier says damage caused to the pier’s north jetty during Storm Frank will not undermine its long-term rescue plans.

The Birnbeck Regeneration Trust is campaigning to save the Victorian pier from crumbling and is applying for millions of pounds in funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Last week part of the pier’s north jetty collapsed amid strong winds, but the trust said the damage would not ‘hinder’ its campaign.

A spokesman for the trust said: “The north jetty is a grade II listed structure, which is yet to be surveyed for its viability for refurbishment – but the collapse is not a hindrance to the trust’s long-term plans.

“Since Storm Frank the trust has kicked off a fundraising appeal called A Pound For The Pier. If everyone in Weston gave just £1 to the cause, we could complete our feasibility study before Easter.”

Weston’s MP John Penrose called on Birnbeck’s owners, CNM Estates, to urgently act before more of the structure is destroyed.

CNM is in the process of negotiating a 25-year lease with the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust, but the details of this have not yet been finalised.

Mr Penrose said: “I’m afraid many of us have been predicting that a big storm would damage this important piece of Weston’s heritage – there’s no pleasure in being proven right.

“CNM has owned Birnbeck Pier for several years now, without making anything like enough progress. It needs to act urgently to save the pier while it’s still there to save.”

This sentiment was echoed by North Somerset councillor Richard Nightingale, who has worked closely with the trust during the past year.

Cllr Nightingale said: “The trust’s dedication and determination to tackle such a large and difficult project has impressed me.

“However, we all recognise that Birnbeck remains in private hands, which complicates both the trust’s and the council’s efforts. Any building owner though has a responsibility for their property, regardless of the condition it was bought in.”

A spokesman for CNM said the company remains committed to leasing Birnbeck to the trust.

The spokesman said: “Anything that further damages the pier is a matter of great concern and is a reminder of the extent to which we are at the mercy of the elements.

“Work on assessing the state of the main structure is ongoing, (which is) funded by CNM, and the principle of a 25-year lease is accepted.

“CNM is fully committed to granting the lease, provided a full and credible roadmap is produced. CNM will also continue to offer support in very practical terms, including helping with the funding of some of the background work that needs to be undertaken.”

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