Sefton Council is in discussions with the Government to secure £13m to fix and reopen Southport Pier as a senior councillor admits ‘we simply don’t have that kind of money’. Tony McDonough reports
Southport’s Victorian pier faces an uncertain future after a senior Sefton councillor admitted it cannot find the £13m needed to fix and reopen it.
In June LBN reported that the pier, which first opened to the public in 1860, would remain closed for the foreseeable future. Freezing temperatures in December 2022 caused “significant and unavoidable damage” to the structure.
Sefton had earmarked £3m for the replacement of the decking. But cold weather and ice caused further damage. A build up of ice from coastal winds has also made the surface treacherous underfoot.
An independent survey revealed 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.
This week the council has published the two structural surveys relating to Southport Pier, along with a series of responses to important questions put forward by the general public.
A digital hub has been created at www.sefton.gov.uk/SouthportPier where a set of frequently asked questions address some of the enquiries from residents, visitors and businesses.
Cllr Marion Atkinson, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Skills, said: “A steel and wooden structure stretching out into the sea at the mercy of the elements requires constant maintenance.
“We have spent on average around half a million pounds a year in the six years leading up to this point… Despite seeing our funding cut by more than 50% since 2010, we need adequate funding not only for the capital works, but for ongoing maintenance as well.
“Adequate funding for maintenance will form an important part of our ongoing dialogue with Government departments and other key stakeholders.
“Sadly, owing to poor workmanship commissioned in 2000, work that should have lasted up to 30 years for timber and longer for the steel work was sub-standard and we inherited a structure that was flawed.
“The contractor in 2000 used the wrong screws and wrong wood as well as failing to renew the steelwork and fixings correctly resulting in the failure of the coating system and corrosion of the underlying steelwork shortly after reopening.”
Despite the council winning its case against the contractor, the company went into liquidation.
She added: “Having been forced to find savings of approaching £250m in the past decade or so as a result of Government funding cuts, we simply don’t have that kind of money.
“We have therefore been focused on proactive discussions with various Government departments and other public sector agencies about securing funding to re-open Southport Pier.”
Cllr Atkinson said traders at the pier have had their rents fully suspended and have been offered multiple alternative sites as a temporary second home to allow for continued trading.”
However, she said: “We have been informed by those concerned however that this is not of interest to them.”
Dr Anya Chapman, honorary secretary of the National Pier Society, said: “We recognise the challenges with Southport Pier and the unsustainable financial pressure this places on the council, a theme we are seeing elsewhere nationally.”