North Somerset councillors vow to protect Weston-super-Mare's Birnbeck Pier as jetty demolition goes ahead

PUBLISHED: 09:00 23 September 2016

Birnbeck Pier's damaged north jetty. Photo by Neil O'Donoghue.

Birnbeck Pier's damaged north jetty. Photo by Neil O'Donoghue.

Archant

North Somerset Council has reluctantly agreed to allow part of Weston-super-Mare's historic Birnbeck Pier to be demolished, after it was battered beyond repair by ferocious storms at the end of last year.

The authority’s planning and regulatory committee voted at a meeting on September 14 to allow Birnbeck’s owner, CNM Estates, to rip down the north jetty – which is at least 113 years old – and five trestle piers attached to it.

However, councillors criticised CNM chairman Wahid Samady for allowing Birnbeck to fall into such a state of disrepair and stressed Mr Samady would never be granted permission to demolish the main pier itself.

Hillside ward councillor Mark Canniford told the meeting: “We cannot ever allow any decisions like this for the main pier – that is sacrosanct and it cannot happen.”

Fellow Hillside councillor John Crockford-Hawley said people in Weston did not trust Mr Samady’s intentions, both in relation to Birnbeck and the neighbouring Royal Pier Hotel site – which CNM was given outline planning permission to develop as luxury apartments, shops and a café five years ago.

Cllr Crockford-Hawley said: “The owner has done absolutely nothing to advance the pier’s cause.

“His weasel words of love – for both pier and Weston – are just those.”

The council served a safety notice to CNM in relation to the jetty earlier this year, and the demolition conditions state works to remove the jetty must begin within three years.

Tania Tindale, a director at Indigo Planning – the firm commissioned by CNM to carry out the demolition – said the jetty’s landing stage would be retained as it is structurally sound.

Ms Tindale told the committee: “The proposed course of action will resolve the considerable safety concerns relating to the jetty. It will not impact on any future use for the landing stage.”

Although Mr Samady did not attend the meeting, he told the Mercury he expected the demolition to take about three months, but he would not reveal what his wider plan for Birnbeck was.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust – which is campaigning to restore the pier – said: “It would not be cost-effective to attempt to structurally support the existing walkway for future refurbishment, as most of the existing structure is extremely corroded and has been overloaded with concrete blocks, which are further weakening the structure.

“The Trust is doing everything it can to seek the solution many Weston residents share – the restoration of the Old Pier.”

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