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 between 1862 and 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.

Birnbeck Pier

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.”

Council announces new future for Birnbeck Pier

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