Sefton Council faces a bill of up to £13m to repair and reopen Southport Pier – £10m more than the original budget for its refurbishment. Tony McDonough reports
Southport’s Victorian pier will remain closed for the foreseeable future with Sefton Council needing to find up to £13m for its repair and refurbishment.
Last year the council earmarked £3m for the replacement of the decking on the pier, which first opened to the public in 1860. However, freezing temperatures in December 2022 caused “significant and unavoidable damage” to the structure.
Cold weather and ice caused damage to the pier’s decking boards. A build up of ice from coastal winds has also made the surface treacherous underfoot. This forced the authority to close it to the public “until further notice.
More than six months on the Grade II-listed pier remains closed. A new independent survey reveals more than 25% of the pier’s decking is majorly damaged or in need of immediate replacement. This equates to over 14 miles of severely decayed decking.e
This report will be presented to an emergency meeting of the Cabinet on Thursday, June 29. However, the council currently does not have the necessary funds to make the repairs with the bill expected to be as high as £13m.
Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council, said the report made “sobering reading” but said the council was committed to the full refurbishment project, recognising the huge importance of the pier, the second-longest in the country.
He said: “It is going to be a huge and costly scheme, but the Cabinet is supportive of the proposal for a full refurbishment project.
“We recognise the pier’s importance in Southport’s, in Sefton’s and in the country’s seaside heritage as well as its popularity with the many millions who visit Southport’s wide range of attractions each year.”
In addition to the full decking replacement, the project would include additional work to the pier’s sub-structure and steelwork, but the likely costs of this full refurbishment project are beyond the affordability of the council.
In order to address this significant funding gap, the council proposes to progress engagement as quickly as possible with potential funders and stakeholders, given the importance of this heritage asset to the town and to local businesses.
Cllr Maher added: “We have to consider all options available to us, but the council is not supportive of any suggestion of closing the pier permanently. It has been disappointing to see some casting doubt on its future.
Cllr Marion Atkinson, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration & Skills, added: “Despite unwarranted speculation about the need for the closure, independent health and safety experts will confirm that the Pier must remain closed until the full refurbishment project has been carried out.
“Given the age, location and scale of historic structures of this nature, it is unsustainable for these to remain the sole financial responsibility of any Local Authority, as this report demonstrates in the case of Southport Pier.
“To me there is clearly a case to lobby Government for a national fund to address this pressure, and to ensure piers receive an ongoing, ringfenced, realistic and proactive maintenance budget allocation.
“Everyone, not just the Local Authority, has to be totally realistic and accept that this is not a task which will be finished in a matter of weeks or even months.”