Report by Charlotte Richardson , chief reporter
Friday, September 23, 2011
ONE of Weston’s most famous landmarks changed hands this week with its new owners providing a ‘substantial’ investment to create a ‘unique’ project for the town.
Businessmen Wahid Samady and Michael Ross have exchanged contracts with Urban Splash for Birnbeck Pier.
The pair say they are ‘on a mission’ and have given themselves 60 days to crystallise their vision for landmark, its island and land at the shore end, before they submit a planning application.
They insist there will be no ‘hanging around’ and that the next two months will be the time spent consulting with interested parties, before the project moves on in leaps and bounds.
Mr Samady, who is also behind the plans for a major leisure and residential complex called Birnbeck Peninsula, next to the pier, said: “We are looking to retain and enhance the facility for the RNLI, restore the pier and enable public access to the land, so everyone can enjoy this scenic and unique destination.
“A lot of schemes over the past nine years have not been financially-viable and we have got to think carefully about how to deliver the project.
“All of the previous plans had elements of good ideas.
“We may apply for grants from outside bodies that are readily available, but I’m not hanging around for three years trying to find out about others.
“We need to bite the bullet and all pull together for a solution.”
Mr Ross, who has know Mr Samady for about five years, says the pair saw the property market picked up and decided to join forces and buy the landmark.
He said: “This is an unusual opportunity and there is a lot to do.
“There are very few people who have experience in restoring and making financially viable a pier linked with a funny island – but this could be unique and something special.
“We have people on our team who have a very clever mix of skills.
“We have already assembled a world-class team of professionals to develop a sustainable and economically-viable future for this exciting project.”
Mr Samady says he is working on £200million worth of projects through his business.
He and Mr Ross acquired the Birnbeck site from Urban Splash, which admitted to key stakeholders at a meeting over the summer that it would need a major financial injection from elsewhere to carry out basic work at the site.
The developer bought the landmark in 2006 and vowed to create an eye-catching residential and leisure combination on the site.
Despite some remedial work being carried out, there has been no sign of the major redevelopment project the town has been waiting for and Urban Splash revealed to the Mercury earlier this year that the recession and economic difficulties of the past few years had taken its toll on the scheme.
North Somerset Council ward member for the Birnbeck area, John Crockford-Hawley, says the news could be exciting for Weston.
He added: “It will be very interesting to see what they come up with for Birnbeck – it will give Mr Samady control of a large area in that part of town.
“At last something could be done with the site.”