Birnbeck developer not surprised by RNLI exit plan
PUBLISHED: 09:58 04 September 2013 | UPDATED: 09:58 04 September 2013
THE RNLI is leaving a crumbling Birnbeck Pier because the historic site has 'no future' at present, according to the developer who wants to resurrect it.
Businessman Wahid Samady says to save the pier he will need to raise £10million in profit from other projects in the Birnbeck area.
He has so far failed to publically reveal his plans – despite countless Mercury appeals to do so – although it is believed to feature a mixture of housing and businesses.
This week he said the designs he has secretly shown to leading North Somerset Council members have been vetoed, and he now wants clarification over the type of development they would deem acceptable.
Last week the RNLI revealed the continued deterioration of Birnbeck Pier means it is making long-term plans to move elsewhere. A £300,000 fundraising initiative has already begun.
Mr Samady said he is unsurprised by the lifesaving charity’s decision.
He said: “The RNLI are leaving as there is no future for the pier (as it stands).”
Speaking exclusively to the Mercury, Mr Samady said the apparent lack of work happening on the pier is not his fault.
He said: “We have presented plans and the council is saying it is not going to be accepted.
“If that isn’t accepted then how do you expect us to come up something which is commercially viable?
“This is expensive work and needs to be paid for somehow. My board won’t allow me to go for a project that will lose £20-50million.
“People say they don’t want this view blocked or that blocked but if people of Weston want to save the pier and have the island with some entertainment and education features then some compromises need to be made.”
Even if Mr Samady’s plans were approved, he said some additional outside funding would be needed.
Preliminary talks with the National Lottery, English Heritage plus Weston MP and former heritage minister John Penrose have gone well.
But Mr Samady said grants, if successful, would take at least 12-18 months to apply for and would fail to cover the required £10million.
A deal to buy the pier was struck two years ago between Mr Samady and Urban Splash and the undisclosed amount is still being paid off in quarterly instalments. The final instalment is due on September 2014, or could be paid off sooner if Mr Samady’s CNM Estates choose to.
Birnbeck Pier’s plight is far from unique with 57 piers considered to be under threat in the UK.
Research conducted by Co-operatives UK released this week shows the continuing popularity of piers, with 70 per cent of the population keen to visit one in the future.