I haven’t had a Christmas card from CNM Estates, the current owners of Birnbeck Pier, for quite a while. Not that I’ve been expecting any, to be honest, because I’ve been pretty clear they were terrible owners who were letting an important local landmark collapse into a rotting ruin. I’ve said repeatedly that they should step aside and let someone else take over.
CNM’s website says they’re “undertaking the refurbishment and redevelopment of Birnbeck” so Weston gets “a new public realm, improved parking, spa, beach huts, and new residences, which will create a vibrant community not seen in the area since its Victorian heyday.” If only it was true.
So you can imagine my delight when, eight years after I first got the Heritage Minister to visit the site and then brought English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund to start talks with the Council about how to save it, a deal has been done with the RNLI. They will take it over and do it up, after the Council have prised it out of CNM’s clammy hands.
The RNLI ought to be a great new owner for the Pier, with the passion that’s needed to get things moving at last. Their old lifeboat station has been part of the site for ages, so they have every reason to set things right.
It’s a big community victory too, helped by groups like the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust and Friends Of The Old Pier Society.
Weston’s future should include protecting our past. We’re becoming an ever-more-modern town, but preserving and regenerating our history is what stops us becoming an anywhere-ville, identikit place that’s no different from everywhere else. Restoring Birnbeck and having the RNLI launching lifeboats from it once again, is a big step in the right direction.