At the time of my last post on the subject, the pier was due to be rescued by a mystery consortium who’s ambitions were to restore the iconic landmark to its former glory. So where are we now? As time keeps marching on, the pier continues to slowly crumble into the sea and the potential new owners continue to shroud their identity in secrecy without any real sign of the purchase going ahead. During this time, the council have resumed their legal action against current owners Fred Nash and Dawn Randall, by ordering the construction of a protective perimeter wall rather than opting for the repairs it badly needs. So where does this leave us? We have two penniless owners who want to wash their hands of the structure, a shadowy group who quite clearly have nothing in their coffers, an eyesore of a wall that will cost money to put up and subsequently tear down, and a local council who seem happy enough to sit down and watch this farcical situation go from bad to worse.
We should remind ourselves that Portsmouth is not the only coastal city who have battled to save their pier. Let us take Hastings as an example. Hastings Council rightly issued a compulsory purchase order and placed their pier firmly in the hands of the Hastings Pier Trust (the model for South Parade Trust). Whilst the financial risk are taken on by the trust, it leaves them free to apply for grants. Hastings Pier Trust received £11.4m from this process alone thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund. Take a second and drink that figure in. This type of back-to-back handover would not only best serve the people of Portsmouth, it will also save the pier from certain ruin and clear any of the water that has been muddied by the consortium. Should Portsmouth City Council choose not to go down this simple route, it will be tantamount to neglect.