Fight is on over Birnbeck Pier as CNM confirms it will contest compulsory purchase order

PUBLISHED: 13:23 21 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:01 23 September 2020

Representatives from North Somerset Council, the RNLI and Heritage England at Birnbeck Pier.

Representatives from North Somerset Council, the RNLI and Heritage England at Birnbeck Pier.

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North Somerset Council has served a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to the private owners of Birnbeck Pier, but its owner will contest the order.

North Somerset Council leader Don Davies at Birnbeck Pier.North Somerset Council leader Don Davies at Birnbeck Pier.

The CPO was served on Friday as documents submitted to the pier’s owners, CNM Estates, said preservation of the pier is ‘the primary justification for the order’ and if the order is not confirmed ‘it is likely that the structure will deteriorate further and eventually be lost’.

The council announced in June that the RNLI wanted to return its life-saving operations back to the island, significantly improving its access to the water.

The council formally approved the need to issue the CPO at its meeting in July.

The CPO will be submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation, who will have to be satisfied there is a compelling case in the public interest generally for the CPO to proceed.

Birnbeck pier in its pre-rebuilt state ! (hopefully)Birnbeck pier in its pre-rebuilt state ! (hopefully)

CNM Estates told the Mercury it will challenge the CPO. Council documents confirm ‘any interested parties’ have up to October 23 to object to the CPO and if an objection is received from one of the interested parties, then the CPO will go to a public consultation.

A spokesman for CNM said: “CNM Estates intends to challenge the CPO and welcomes the judicial process so that the facts can be properly and independently scrutinised. Our legal team will be lodging an appeal, in the first instance, at the magistrates court, however regardless of this we intend to commence with the vital repair works necessary to bring Birnbeck Pier back to life and regenerate the northern end of the town.

“We have already appointed a specialist project team with extensive experience in repairing heritage assets to repair and restore the pier. As stated by North Somerset Council, the repair works can only be done in phases and therefore, as part of this work, we have submitted a listed building application to respond to high-priority repair areas and are awaiting the determination of this application so urgent works and surveys can commence before the winter months.

“Further applications for the next phases are being prepared and will be submitted in early October.

“We remain open to constructive dialogue with stakeholders and interested parties in regards to taking this site forward, saving unnecessary legal costs and more importantly avoiding further delay in the regeneration of Birnbeck.”

The authority intends to use its legal powers to compulsory purchase the pier site as part of a back-to-back deal, immediately transferring the property to the RNLI.

Working with Historic England, the council made a £1 offer to CNM in August in order to avoid the CPO process and speed the renovation of the pier up exponentially, but the offer was not accepted.

MORE: Council makes £1 pier bid.

The derelict main building at Birnbeck Island. Picture: Henry WoodsfordThe derelict main building at Birnbeck Island. Picture: Henry Woodsford

Cllr Don Davies, leader of the council, said: “This is a significant step towards restoring Birnbeck, allowing the RNLI to move forward with its plans and restoring public access.

“We had hoped to avoid the CPO process and for the owner to voluntarily transfer the site to the council or the RNLI, but sadly it seems this will not be the case.

“The private owner of Birnbeck has owned the pier since 2011 and little has been done to maintain the structure and the site is now a liability.

“Following the CPO process will allow us to purchase the site in a back-to-back deal with the RNLI and get them back onto the island so they can do what they do best – saving lives.”

The council formally approved the need to issue the CPO at its meeting in July.

The CPO will be submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation, who will have to be satisfied there is a compelling case in the public interest generally for the CPO to proceed.

Rebecca Barrett, regional director for Historic England in the South West, said: “We applaud North Somerset Council in taking this vital step towards securing Birnbeck Pier for use by the RNLI as a life-saving base.

“We will continue to support both organisations as the regeneration of this stunning Victorian structure gets underway.”


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