The news about South Parade Pier has been getting a bit better lately. It’s been confirmed that the South Parade Trust and the Pier’s owners are in discussion about a change of ownership. Despite the battering waves and driving wind, it’s still there in its hundred-and-seventh year.
But until the sale is completed, there are bound to be nagging fears that something could go wrong, or some unforeseen snag arise; it’s many years since a proper structural survey of the Pier was carried out. An enforcement notice is still in place in relation to the replacement of the deck-edging, which was removed without the proper listed building consent and must be replaced. It’s no secret that there is a gap in the valuations of the Pier made by the owners and the would-be purchasers. The electricity supply to the Pier was cut off in December because of unpaid bills.
It is known that there is a wide gap between the owners’ asking price and the valuation of the Pier made by the Trust. No proper structural survey has been carried out on the Pier in several years, and until that’s done, who knows for sure exactly what state the structure is in? Whoever buys the Pier, they are clearly taking on an awful lot of liability and not a lot of quick return on their investment. It is likely to need at least £500k to restore the Pier to a point where all of it can safely be used. If you click on the link to the SPT site above, you’ll see how you can help them raise funds by buying a calendar or a selection of prints, all of which are excellent.
I say “safely”, because that is one thing that has been in doubt for some time. I’ve questioned in the past on this blog whether or not the City Council has properly discharged its duties overseeing the Pier (click the “South Parade Pier” category in the right-hand sidebar where other blogs on the subject are collated), and there is still an outstanding FoI request on the subject which I’m assured is in hand. I’ve just sent the City Council an email now asking how they are getting along, as we are now well past the statutory 20 working day deadline.
I also approached Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service via the Freedom of Information site whatdotheyknow.com to see what part they’ve played in ensuring the Pier is operated safely. They have forwarded me a scan containing various emails and records, a link to the full release is at the end of this piece.
One complaint HFRS responded to, in July 2012, drew a damning response:
“It would appear that the management has little regard to fire safety as the promoter of the event (a rave) pointed out the fact that a fire door was chained in the closed position. His [i.e. the manager] answer to the promoter was to ignore the concern stating that he was only using one room and that fire exit was not required”
A further report makes clear that the exit that was chained was still signposted as a Fire Exit during the event. HFRS met the Pier’s management a couple of days later and explained their obligations to them.
Another incident happened not long after that, this time a builder lighting a bonfire on the concrete decking of the Pier!
I can’t really quite comprehend the stupidity of lighting a bonfire anywhere on a pier (one that’s burnt down twice before, as well), and I get the impression that the HFRS officers couldn’t quite believe it either!
A subsequent unannounced inspection of the Pier confirmed that a working fire alarm system is in operation, although it seems it is not remotely monitored when the Pier is empty.
I’ve picked out these items, there isn’t a lot else in the release beyond some understandable emails expressing concern about the state and management of the Pier. I think anyone who reads the full release will feel happy that HFRS have certainly taken the issue seriously and done everything that could be expected of them.
The full release is available to download (26 pages) in PDF here, though I’d warn you that the chain of emails is a bit of a jumble. As for my Portsmouth City Council FoI request, we’ll have to wait a little while longer to see what that uncovers. But hopefully not too much longer.