Securing the futureBen Park2017-12-14T14:51:17+00:00
The History of Clevedon Pier
Part 4 The future is secured
Long term planning gets underway
Following the spectacularly successful restoration, the life of the pier continued with the income from visitors generating just enough to cover running costs and the day-to-day upkeep. On warm sunny days the pier was busy and on cold windy days much less so. Winter storms would occasionally cause damage but the required repairs were generally affordable.
Repainting the Pier
The Board of the Trust under the leadership of Niall Phillips (1991 to 2009) and, more recently Simon Talbot-Ponsonby, were painfully aware that whilst the operation was generating enough to cash to cover the day-to-day operations, there would not be sufficient to cover major maintenance work in the longer term.
The 1970 collapse had demonstrated that a lack of regular repainting of the pier would lead to disaster. For this reason the Board of Trustees decided to seek ways of enhancing the pier’s appeal to visitors and thus generating more income. Without the ability to generate sufficient cash, the Trust was relying on the limited budgets of the Local Authority.
Improving the visitor experience
Pier of the Year
Amongst the immediate priorities, were the provision of washrooms and a cafe. However, in early 2001 the owners of the Royal pier Hotel, next door, submitted a planning application for the development of the property into flats with substantial demolition of the building. This posed a challenge insofar as the demolition of the building could detract from views of the pier and, on the other hand, an opportunity in terms of possible usage of parts of the adjacent building. The Trust formally objected to the proposal but events were moving fast and in August 2001 the hotel went into receivership. The Trust approached the receiver with an offer to take on the building so as to provide the required facilities and to ensure the remainder of the building was developed sympathetically. However, it transpired that an option for the hotel had been sold before the original developer went into receivership and it was not long before the next planning application was submitted in September 2001.
Negotiations were then held with the Royal Pier Hotel owners for the Trust to acquire the adjacent apartment within the redevelopment accessible from the Pier, including a cafe, toilets, administration space and storage. There followed further intense discussions with the developers, the council and submissions to the planning inspectorate until ultimately planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of the Hotel in April 2003. In the meantime squatters had moved in which had a major impact on the business of the pier. In May 2003 a substantial part of the Hotel was severely damaged by fire. In April 2008 North Somerset Council were so concerned about the lack of progress and the continued deterioration of the listed building that they started the process of serving a repairs notice on the owners. Plans to work with the owners of the Royal pier hotel had reached a dead end and another solution would have to be found.
In the summer of 2003 North Somerset Council agree to fund an options appraisal to establish whether there was a simple way to provide the much needed facilities for the pier by providing additional space associated with the Toll House. This floundered because of concerns in relation to the impact on the setting of a Grade I Listed Structure coupled with the cost of development considering the level of returns that might be expected. Again, a dead end.
During this period negotiations were undertaken with North Somerset Council about the significant repainting and repair works that were needed and in 2005 a contract was signed to enable the repainting of the pier head supporting structure and pagoda buildings for £400,000 with a grant of £328,000 from North Somerset Council.
In 2008 the Trust appointed Ian Parkin, a leisure and tourism consultant, to carry out a Business Review. This was completed, in August that same year, just as the latest company to own the hotel building went into receivership. The conclusion was that the serious need for decent facilities hampered the pier’s development and that the Trust should, once again, pursue the purchase of the former Hotel. Approaches were made to the receivers and surveyors were appointed in order to establish the market value of the building as it stood at the time. The receivers were not responsive and the building was put up for auction in London on 17th December 2009 and the Trustees were set to make a bid. However the building was sold the day before the auction to Freemantle Properties.
A solution is found
Temporary scaffolding allowing access to the Pier during building work
By June 2010 Freemantle Developments had finalised their scheme and met with the Trust. They were not prepared to incorporate space to accommodate the pier’s requirements, but their architect, Robert O’Leary, had come up with the idea that the new facilities could be incorporated within the pier’s access ramp. Furthermore, the developers were prepared to contribute towards the costs. The Trust appointed O’Leary Goss to develop the scheme further.
The first hurdle with the scheme was to get Listed Building consent. The concept was to devise a building that did not detract from the Pier and did not ‘pretend’ to be part of the original structure and would also be reversible at any stage on the future. Negotiation took place with the North Somerset council and English Heritage and a final endorsement came from English Heritage on 1st November 2010 which stated “The design of the proposed new structure, as a light-weight element that emerges gently from the camber of the ramp, appears well-considered, and we would fully support the contemporary design of this.”
Listed Building Consent and Planning Permission was granted in May 2011.
Funding is secured
Excavating the rock was a big challenge
Then the long haul to get the funding in place was started. The Round 1 applications to The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and The Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) were submitted and, in consequence, a new funding stream was announced. The Round 2 bid to HLF bid was submitted in August 2012 and the CCF bid was sent one month later. These were awarded at the end of the year, although the CCF Fund only granted £500,000 of the £750,000 applied for. The shortfall presented a challenge but nevertheless work started with the refurbishment of the former Heritage Centre in November 2013. An award of an additional £250,000 from the CCF in July 2014 meant that the main Visitor Centre project could start on site in October 2014.
Work underway in the ramp excavation
In the meantime in 2012 and 2013 the pier promenade had been repaired and repainted at a cost of £801,000, some 24 years after it was reinstated, with the benefit of a grant of £657,601 from North Somerset Council. In October 2014 a scaffolding walkway was constructed at a cost of £110,000 in order that the pier could remain open to the public throughout the works.
The major challenge in the initial stages of the project was the breaking out and excavation of more than 800 tonnes of rock within the ramp without damaging the existing walls and destabilising the pier. A reinforced concrete box structure was created within the ramp to create the space for the Porthole room, toilets, storage and the restaurant all encompassed in a stunning new glass building.
The Trust’s brief expands
Meanwhile, in Autumn 1998, the Pier Trust had picked up responsibility for the Victor Cox Museum collection. Along with an impressive collection of Clevedon artefacts – mainly images and ephemera – the Trust took ownership of the Clevedon Heritage Centre at No. 4 The Beach. This building allowed an expansion in office space and generated an income from a number of business tenants. Later, for the duration of the building of the new Visitor Centre, the Pier shop was relocated to this building. The heritage collection will soon become accessible though the Discover @ the Pier attraction which is being installed on the top floor of the old Toll House.
In 2015 Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Limited became a Community Benefit Society in order that it might become a community based membership organisation. Shares were offered to prospective members and In the five months that the share offer ran over £250,000 was invested in the Society by over 1,100 members. The new Visitor Centre opened in the Spring of 2016 and has since proved to be a great success, helping the Pier to attract over 100,000 visitors in 2017.
The picture below was taken on Lifeboat Day in 2010.