Council leader says Birnbeck owner is ‘high risk’

Birnbeck Pier. Photo by Jeremy Long.

Birnbeck Pier. Photo by Jeremy Long. - Credit: Jeremy Long \ JCL Photography

The council says it will not take legal action against the owners of Weston-super-Mare’s Birnbeck Pier to recoup outstanding costs because the company is in so much debt there would be no cash left to claim.

Earlier this year, the Mercury reported pier owner CNM Estates, which bought the structure in 2014, had been given 21 days to make the structure safe by the council after it was damaged by storms at the end of last year.

At the most recent council meeting, Cllr John Ley-Morgan asked North Somerset leader Nigel Ashton whether the ultimatum had prompted any response.

Cllr Ashton revealed CNM had responded on February 5, the last of the 21 days, to say it had procured quotes from a demolition contractor to investigate how to remove the danger from the north jetty.

CNM Estates has also asked a consultancy firm to come up with a list of work which needs to be carried out on the pier.

Cllr Ashton said: “Given it may take a little time for CNM Estates to instruct and undertake this work our building control officer will be putting up notices at the site to warn people of the danger of approaching the structure.”

Other than the cost of these signs, Cllr Ashton assured the council there are no plans to spend taxpayers’ money on the dilapidated structure.

CNM Estates already owes North Somerset Council more than £100,000 after the council stepped in to demolish the Royal Pier Hotel in 2010 under its legal duty to make the site safe after a fire gutted the building.

Cllr Ley-Morgan asked whether the council had considered suing CNM owner Wahid Samady to recoup the demolition costs, and added: “If so, when, and, if not, why not?”

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Cllr Ashton said: “The council can at any time initiate debt proceedings.

“However it has so far elected not to do so as it is unlikely any judgement in the courts could actually be enforced.

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“We have previously looked at enforcement but the company had no physical assets in money or chattel form on which bailiff action could be used.

“The asset it has of the land could be pursued by way of an order for sale but there were prior creditors to the council who would take their debts ahead of the council – thus the council would incur the costs of the proceedings only to have to settle the prior creditor claims before getting any balance.

“Previous enquiries as to the level of other debts indicated there would be none left over for the council.”

Cllr Ashton also said his research found CNM was valued at just £100 and the company was also recorded as having a ‘high risk’ creditworthiness.

A CNM Estates spokesman told the Mercury the debts were being settled, and said: “CNM Estates companies are structured individually for each development site, this is normal practice in most property businesses.

“To date CNM Estates has invested more than £4million in the former Royal Pier Hotel of which about half has been funded from equity from Wahid Samady, the balance being bank loan.

“North Somerset Council and CNM are at final stages of settlement regarding the disputed demolitions costs and hope to announce the settlement this week.”

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