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.