Birnbeck Pier jetty earmarked for demolition

Birnbeck Pier.

Birnbeck Pier. - Credit: Archant

Part of Weston-super-Mare’s decaying Birnbeck Pier is to be demolished in the near future, as Historic England urged the pier’s owners to fully reveal its intentions for the site or risk losing vital help.

The Mercury can reveal CNM Estates, which owns Birnbeck and part of the surrounding land, has appointed consultancy firm Indigo Planning to engage in discussions with Historic England and North Somerset Council about how to demolish the structure’s north jetty.

The jetty has stood precariously to the side of the main pier in a state of partial collapse after it was badly damaged in storms at the end of last year, and Historic England says it is working with CNM and Indigo to ensure the jetty is removed while the rest of the pier is preserved.

Simon Robertshaw is Historic England’s inspector of historic buildings and areas for Somerset. He said: “The most recent discussion was at the end of last week with a firm called Indigo. It was called to discuss the application, which will be coming in, for demolition of the north landing.

“Before that I had phone calls with (CNM owner) Wahid Samady a fortnight ago.

“It is useful to have pre-application discussions so we have been explaining to Mr Samady that the door is open, but so far we have not had any close-up discussions about an end-to-end strategy (for restoring Birnbeck).”

Mr Samady said CNM’s immediate focus is on ensuring remedial works are carried out to the jetty and added a team of ‘professionals’ had been appointed to oversee the restoration of the rest of the pier.

He told the Mercury: “The scope has not been fully agreed but, given the jetty’s state of disrepair and redundant use, maybe it is best to demolish it. But first we need the remedial works to be carried out urgently.

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“CNM is undertaking further studies to provide costs – certainly for the refurbishment of the pier itself – and this has involved the appointment of a team of cost consultants, engineers and supporting professionals, including a specialist pier contractor.

“This is key as it will inform the scale of the gap between development and funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and maintenance issues. CNM is working with Historic England and North Somerset and there have been a number of on-site meetings.”

The Mercury reported in February that CNM was planning to develop the landside area overlooking Birnbeck to fund the cost of regenerating the pier, despite efforts from the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust to raise enough money for the pier’s overall restoration.

Mr Samady said: “CNM is continuing to develop ideas on appropriate development forms and uses to deal with the gap in funding.

“It has been accepted by all – North Somerset, Historic England, the trust, CNM and anybody else who has ever been involved with the pier – that some development will be required in addition to HLF funding.”

However, Mr Robertshaw said it was vital for CNM to reveal its overall plan for the site as quickly as possible to ensure the project’s success.

He said: “Rather than have piecemeal bits of the jigsaw come to us, it is better to have an application so we can understand the long-term strategy for the site as a whole.

“I think it is important we see the proposals for the landside and for the pier, and the north landing, done in an overview form all together.

“It is a highly complex site. Successive owners have had difficulty overcoming the problems there and we want to do all we can to help, but proposals need to come forward. We are not the developers – the picture needs to be painted.”