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Friends Of The Old Pier Society
Save Birnbeck Pier

Welcome

The Friends of the Old Pier Society is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 1996 to save the magnificent Birnbeck Pier in Weston-super-Mare. Designed by legendary pier builder Eugenius Birch and opened in 1867, the pier is unique since it's the only British pier that links the mainland with an island. Sadly, the pier has been closed to the public since 1994 and is included on the 'At Risk' Register compiled by English Heritage. The pier was purchased in 2014 by CNM Estates

Membership is open to everyone – whether you're a Westonian, an exiled Westonian, just have a soft spot for the town, a pier buff or simply someone who cares about the nation's heritage - with discounted rates available for senior citizens and students, and group subscriptions on offer for families and businesses. The society is headed by a committee of nine members, of differing ages, backgrounds and experience... but all with one thing in common – wanting to see Birnbeck Pier restored and reopened. Members receive three professionally-produced magazines per year – featuring the latest developments in the battle to save the pier, as well as happy memories from years gone by - and are invited to attend the society's Annual General Meeting in November.

During the summer (and weekends during the winter), the society's shop 'Pier View' - a former tram signalling station that, as the name suggests, overlooks the pier – is open to visitors, where they can join the society, purchase souvenirs, discuss the pier with the volunteers on duty or simply admire the view while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee.

Latest News (25/09/20)

A WORD FROM THE CHAIRMAN

First, I hope that all has been well with you and yours over the period of the "Lockdown" and have all emerged relatively unscathed by "Covid-19". If any were caught, I hope that you are all well on the road to recovery.

Since your last Newsletter, the newly elected members of North Somerset Council have started action that their predecessors consistently refused to do.

Action that we been encouraging them to take over what seems to me to be a lifetime.

They have at last started to take their Statutory Duties with regards to the Old Pier seriously and have informed the owners that it is their intention to begin "Compulsory Purchase Order" proceedings against them.

In February 2020, the Council took the first step in this legal process and issued the owners with a "Works Order".

The owners have, I now believe submitted their Planning Application for the future of The Birnbeck site. It is also my belief that agreement on this Planning Application must be approved by the Council before 23/24 September 2020 when the Compulsory Planning Application will begin.

I believe that this Planning Application did not meet the requirements contained in the works order issued by the Council.

Therefore, on the 21 September 2020 at 09:01hrs North Somerset Council issued CNM Estates with a "Compulsory Purchase Order"

The Friends of the Old pier Society and Birnbeck Regeneration Trust have indicated to North Somerset Council that the action it is pursuing has their full support.

Hopefully at a point in the not to distant future the Council will win it's legal battle with CNM Estates, so I would like to thank you all for staying the course with us and if it is not tempting fate to much pour yourself a large glass of red or whatever takes your fancy.

This is for a battle well fought, please remember it is only the battle that we have won and not the war, the Friends of the Old Pier Society will still need your support for the future.

Charles McCann
Chairman

 

 

The Future of Birnbeck Pier has become clear. (July2020)

    1. Draft Release

Council announces new future for Birnbeck Pier
After years of decline at the mercy of the wind and the tide, the fortunes of a Grade II* listed Pier in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset look set to brighten thanks to efforts by North Somerset Council, Historic England and the RNLI.

Birnbeck Pier, a Victorian structure built in 1867, is unique due to its connection to Birnbeck Island - the only pier in the country to connect the mainland to an island. The privately-owned pier has continued to deteriorate over many years, moving onto Historic England's national at-risk register in 1999.

North Somerset Council's concern about the deterioration of the pier resulted in the serving of a repairs notice to the private owner in September 2019. In late 2019, the RNLI began initial conversations with the council and Historic England on the possibility of the charity moving back to the Island, which would include a transfer of ownership.

At a meeting on Tuesday 14 July, the council will receive a report to authorise the issuing of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for Birnbeck Pier. This process could take up to 18 months until confirmation is received from the Secretary of State.

Leader of the Council, Don Davies, said: "We are delighted that an organisation as professional as the RNLI has decided to step in and potentially take ownership of Birnbeck Pier. We have given the owner many opportunities over the years to undertake the necessary repairs needed to preserve the pier, without success, even starting legal action to CPO the site as a last resort. This is a fantastic result following a great deal of work from council officers, Historic England and the RNLI.

Clearly there is a lot of work to do to restore the Pier and re-establish the lifeboat station back to its original home. We would like to thank Historic England for their ongoing support in securing a future for Birnbeck Pier and look forward to seeing this historic structure reopened to the public, as well as providing vital lifesaving to North Somerset."

Duncan Macpherson, RNLI Principal Estate Manager says: "The RNLI are really encouraged by the positive steps being taken by North Somerset Council to initiate a CPO process in order to take ownership of Birnbeck Island. The charity has been working alongside North Somerset Council and Historic England on the feasibility of re-establishing a lifeboat station on Birnbeck Island and this is a significant step towards that goal.

Weston-super-Mare is a very important search and rescue base for the RNLI but is also a very complex area in which to build a lifeboat station. Birnbeck Island offers the best solution for the safe and most effective launch and recovery for the volunteer lifeboat crew at all states of the tide. The move will be a significant investment for the charity and the future of lifesaving in Weston-super-Mare. Of course, the pier also has huge historical significance to the community of Weston-super-Mare and, although there are a number of challenges to overcome still, the RNLI are delighted to be part of the journey to bring it back to its former glory."
Rebecca Barrett, Regional Director for Historic England in the South West, said: "This is wonderful news. Birnbeck Pier is one of England's finest Victorian piers, but it has been on our Heritage at Risk Register for over 20 years. We are delighted that such a promising solution has now come forward. We will continue to work closely with the RNLI, North Somerset Council and other partners to rescue this outstanding and much-loved structure."

    2. Time Line

The RNLI have announced that they are planning to move their operation back to Birnbeck Pier. It is the one location in Weston-super Mare where boats can be launched at almost any state of the tide.

North Somerset Council has been working closely with Historic England for some time now to secure the future of Birnbeck Pier to avoid its collapse. As a grade II* listed structure an urgent works notice was issued to the owner in September 2019. As the current owner has made little effort carry out any of the urgent works, the Council decided to prepare a Compulsory Purchase Order. North Somerset council have decided that it is now time to serve the CPO on the owners which could take up to 18 months to complete. Once complete this will enable the RNLI to have full control of the Pier and its infrastructure.

Since the Pier closed to the public in 1994 It has been owned by a string of developers. The most recent acquired the pier in 2014. They had fanciful plans for a large development of apartments on the island as well developing the adjacent Royal Pier Hotel into luxury apartments. Nothing has been done to arrest the decay of the pier.

The Weston super Mare lifeboat station has been on Birnbeck Island since 1882, but they had stop using it in 2016 when the access to the island along the bridge or pier became too unsafe.

The initial stage of works to restore the RNLI operation on Birnbeck will start as soon as the CPO process is completed. This will involve repairing and substantially rebuilding the bridge, designed by Eugenius Birch in 1867, and creating proper facilities on the island. It is hoped that as part of the first phase public access will become possible. During these works feasibility studies for the buildings on remainder of the island to establish a long term financially sustainable future for Birnbeck Pier will be carried out and plans and funding opportunities developed to bring this beautiful pier fully back into operation.

Before too long this 10 mile stretch of North Somerset coastline will have three of the most iconic piers in the country, Clevedon, Weston Grand Pier and Birnbeck, (including 2 of the only 7 grade I and II* listed piers in the country) fully functioning and open to the public.

The Friends of the Old Pier Society and Birnbeck Regeneration Trust are delighted to have been party of this process and are looking forward to continuing to work with the RNLI, North Somerset Council and Historic England to bring this beautiful pier back to life for the benefit of the local residents and visitors alike
.


(Posted with kind permission of Weston Mercury)

Damage from Storm Ciara Feb 2020

Photos: ©Andrew Mason

North Somerset Council


Executive meeting Wednesday 5 February 2020 2.30pm Discussing Birbeck's future and CPO

Press Release:

Posted with kind permission of Weston Mercury and Weston Vision. (30 January 2020)

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Once you've looked after your family and friends, please consider leaving a legacy to the Friends of the Old Pier Society. Solicitors, Will Writers or many High Street banks can help you with this.
 
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New, fully-updated edition of 'Birnbeck Pier – A Short History' available November 2011. Order here - only £5.99 inc. P&P.
We've launched our own range of souvenirs. All profits to the Society. New designs & products will be regularly added. Souvenirs
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