Old pier - has it a viable future?

PUBLISHED: 10:00 31 August 2012

(click on image for larger view)Birnbeck Pier.

(click on image for larger view)Birnbeck Pier.

Archant

‘I’M NOT feeling very optimistic about the future of Birnbeck’ - these are the words of a councillor who attended a recent meeting about the fate of the Weston landmark.

Developers met North Somerset Council members last week to try to find a way forward for the grade two listed site, but those present had mixed views as to how successful it was.

The Mercury reported earlier this year how concerns were raised that plans for the pier, which have remained mainly under wraps, could adversely affect some of the best views in Weston.

Both English Heritage and North Somerset Council have raised concerns that Wahid Samady’s plans for Birnbeck Pier could impact on the views from the historical Prince Consort Gardens.

But Cllr Robert Payne, who represents the area where Birnbeck stands, told the Mercury following the meeting: “I’m not feeling very optimistic about the future of Birnbeck.

”Mr Samady has indicated that he is aware of the requirement to protect the heritage assets in the area, including the important views from Prince Consort Gardens.

“If he genuinely wishes to find an acceptable solution to Birnbeck he should be given credit for that.

“However, it seems to me that for any commercial developer, the huge cost of restoring the pier and other associated listed buildings would likely be prohibitive for an economically-viable scheme without an unacceptable level of development.”

Prince Consort Gardens were planted in the 1860s in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband Albert, Prince Consort and are a popular site for both visitors and locals.

Cllr Payne added: “I am keen to ensure that the character of the north end of the seafront is retained.

“It has a much quieter and more genteel feel, which provides a welcome contrast to the more lively parts of the seafront towards the Grand Pier, and this special character would be compromised by excessive development.

“I am therefore yet to be convinced that any commercial development based solution is realistic for this unique site.”

Mr Samady says he does not believe his proposals would have a negative affect on the views.

The businessman, who also owns the nearby Royal Pier Hotel in Birnbeck Road, has said that one of his main objectives is to maintain the quality of views from key areas in the town.

Council deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees, who asked for last week’s meeting, said: “It was constructive and both sides had a better understanding of each other’s position.”

Mr Samady says he will keep the images for the seafront area close to his chest until he knows he can fulfil the grand scheme, but has revealed the proposals include a mixture of residential and commercial use.

He joined up with fellow businessman Michael Ross last September and the pair exchanged contracts for the site with Urban Splash.


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