Process of acquiring Birnbeck Pier begins
PUBLISHED: 16:50 14 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:50 14 July 2020
The process of acquiring Birnbeck Pier from private ownership has begun.
North Somerset Council unanimously agreed to begin the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) process at its meeting today (Tuesday).
Current owner CNM Estates asked councillors to delay, saying it is better placed than the RNLI to carry out the necessary repairs.
The CPO could be scrapped if CNM voluntarily sells the pier to the council or the RNLI. CNM will be offered a brief opportunity for this to happen before the CPO process begins.
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The CPO would take place as part of an immediate transfer of property to the RNLI, which will move its life-saving operations back to the island.
Council members asked officers to make a reasonable offer to CNM as part of a private purchase, to avoid the CPO process and speed the renovation of the pier up exponentially. This would be a back-to-back deal with the RNLI.
Negotiations with CNM have been ongoing since 2014, including serving a statutory repairs notice, with no substantive proposals or action to safeguard or restore the pier reached.
Cllr John Crockford-Hawley said: “We all know the current owners have procrastinated and have failed to convince both this council and the associated bodies, including the populations of North Somerset and Weston of either their determination or ability to breathe new life into Birnbeck Pier.
“There is only one course of action and that is to up anchor and seek new waters as far away from North Somerset as is humanly possible. Ever since the pier stopped its commercial operations there have been many ideas for the future of Birnbeck, all of them have floundered.
“I feel this is probably the very last chance for Birnbeck to survive, it will only work if the RNLI, Historic England, Birnbeck Regeneration Trust, Lottery and the public are behind us. I can see no other option other than the pier falling into the sea and the island returning to its original state as an isolated island.
“This is our last opportunity to save Birnbeck, there will not be another one and the sooner we can kiss goodbye to CNM, so much the better.”
The council served a repairs notice to CNM in September, advising the proprietor that repair work must take place. No substantive response has been received, so a CPO option was initiated, with the backing of the RNLI and Historic England.
Cllr Don Davies, leader of the council, said: “Anyone who knows Weston will know that Birnbeck Pier, originally one of its foremost attractions, has been in decline for many years.
“It has been on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk List for over 20 years, yet the owner has failed to take action to conserve this important part of our national heritage
“An opportunity has arisen for the council to intervene to not only safeguard the structure but to return the RNLI to their operational base on the island and to enable the public to again access the pier and island, something they haven’t been able to do since 1994.”
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