‘Frustrated’ Birnbeck owner calls for help
- Credit: Archant
BIRNBECK Pier could remain derelict for another 10 years because councillors do not want anything done, according to its ‘frustrated’ owner.
Wahid Samady (pictured left) said he needs to be allowed to build accommodation and commercial properties around Birnbeck – which would obstruct views from the Prince Consort Gardens – to raise the funds needed to restore the pier.
He said: “We could be sitting here in 10 years time. I have resigned myself that unless this message is understood and accepted then there will be no solution. Something has to give.
“I’m frustrated to some extent. We have got to the point that whatever we say, some local councillors, and others, feel that nothing should be done.
“They want no blocked views, the pier rebuilt and the island restored. The things are mutually exclusive.”
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His claims over a lack of support have been rubbished by senior North Somerset members.
Deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees said there had been opposition to plans from both Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors because of the negative impact it would have on the gardens.
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Until now Mr Samady has only shown drawings to a few councillors, on the promise they do not release them to the public.
He hopes the National Lottery will pay some of the £10-20million bill for Birnbeck Pier but said the shortfall will have to be recouped in profit from other projects in the area.
Despite ‘massive resistance on a local level’ he promised he would ‘never walk way’ because of his ‘love for the project’ and the town.
Instead he called on the people of Weston to reach universal agreement on what they want the pier to be.
He added: “We have to create something that puts Weston on the map. We can create something so stunning that people all over the country come to visit.”
Mike Davies, of the National Piers Society, said he would like to see it returned to a Victorian arcade and become an ‘Alton Towers of the South West’.
Cllr John Crockford-Hawley, who is Birnbeck’s ward member, refuted Mr Samady’s claims that he has not been supported by councillors and said the public cannot debate the plans until they are released.
He said: “The local councillors, and Cllr Ap Rees, have been to several meetings at the Town Hall which have basically come to nothing.
“He meets up with one set of architects and then the next time he comes with another one.”
Cllr Crockford-Hawley wants the Prince Consort Gardens to be made a town green, which would stop development near it and any that obstructs its views.
However, a council meeting scheduled about it has been scrapped, against his wishes.
He said: “This procrastination is unhelpful and can only make people suspicious.”
Critics of Mr Samady have questioned whether he has the finances to restore the pier to working order and he said he was ‘bemused’ by rumours that the deal to buy it was not completed until this week.
Cllr Crockford-Hawley said: “It has always been clear to me that whoever takes on the pier is taking an enormous financial risk unless there is something to generate a huge amount of capital with it.
“It is a building that doesn’t have any charitable status… because it is a business proposition. I don’t know anyone who would take it as a business proposition.”
Meanwhile Mr Samady is confident that work to rebuild the Royal Pier Hotel will begin shortly. The hotel was closed in 2009 and then gutted by fire the following year.
Planning permission was granted in September 2011 for 63 contemporary apartments, beach huts, shops and a café.
He said: “I hope to announce the start of work on the hotel, hopefully later this year.
“I think people will then realise we are dead serious about Weston and that part of the town.”