Photo: Eugenius Birch's beautiful West Pier in better days. © The Brighton West Pier Trust.
Yesterday English Heritage gave their seal of approval to the plans for the multi-million pound restoration of Brighton’s West Pier.
Brighton and Hove City Council granted planning permission for the pier’s restoration back in February 2003. But, following two fires in April and May this year that all but destroyed the pier, the council asked English Heritage for advice on whether or not the restoration should go ahead.
English Heritage considered if the reconstruction of the pier was acceptable under their published guidelines due to the amount of damage to the structure.
Their report highlighted the architectural importance of the pier, designed by Eugenius Birch, and concluded that, "The West Pier was the most important pleasure pier ever built." It also noted that the repair and reconstruction of the pier would allow the significance of these factors to be appreciated.
Photo: fire takes hold. West Pier, Brighton, 10.30 am March 28, 2003. Photo David Prudames, © 24 Hour Museum
The council has welcomed the report. Spokesperson Alan Stone said, "We’re pleased with English Heritage’s decision and we remain 100 per cent committed to the restoration and see it as the vital last stage to the redevelopment to the seafront."
The decision however does not guarantee that the pier will be restored. A decision from the Heritage Lottery Fund as to whether to release £14 million for the project is due in January and a legal challenge from the Palace Pier is yet to be resolved.
The Noble Organisation, owners of the Palace Pier, objected to the proposed use of Lottery money in the restoration and argued that it breached European Union rules on state backed commercial competition.
The European Commission rejected the challenge in April 2002 after the case was referred by the Government. The Noble Organisation has since appealed to the European Court of Justice but the case is still waiting to be heard.
Restoration work is expected to begin in 2005, provided the outcome to these developments are favourable to the trust, and will take around two years to complete.