EASTBOURNE PIER FIRE AUGUST 2014

 

A fire burned down the Blue Room on the pier at Eastbourne, police investigating found no suspicious circumstances

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A burned out steel structure in much need of repair

 

SKELETON COAST - Eastbourne's fortunes have been going through a rough patch with tourist revenue declining due mainly to the younger generation seeking cheaper holiday destinations overseas. It does not help any recovery that may be planned for this once popular seaside resort that the pier was almost lost in the fire in August 2014. Would you want to put your logo on one of these deck chairs. Not with the pier looking this way.

 

 

EASTBOURNE HERALD MARCH 2015

When Prime Minister David Cameron visited Eastbourne in the aftermath of the devastating pier fire last summer and promised £2 million to boost the town’s tourist economy, the response of the townsfolk was something of a mixed bag.

Some praised the Tory government and welcomed the cash boost. After all the pier has always been the jewel in the south coast crown and the July 30 fire – which destroyed a third of the seafront structure including the iconic domed Blue Room – left locals and visitors devastated and pier traders without their livelihoods at the height of the summer.

Others saw the visit and cash pledge from the Prime Minister and Chancellor George Osborne as a cynical ploy to help boost votes in what is seen as a major target seat in the forthcoming May General Election.

But whatever the views, the money will soon be in the bank and in the months following the arson attack – although nobody has ever been charged and the police investigation continues – much work has been done behind the scenes preparing a business case as to what exactly the cash should be spent on.

Right from the outset the pier’s owners, formerly Cuerden Leisure and now Crown Entertainment Centers, said the building was insured and would be rebuilt so none of the cash will be spent on replacing anything destroyed on the pier.

Council officials and members of the Eastbourne Pier Action Committee, set up within hours of the blaze, met with civil servants from the Department of Communities and Local Government and came up with a wish list of how the money could be spent and how it would boost the town’s tourism economy.

 

 

Colin Belsey standing by the burnt out wreckage of the Blue Room

 

COLIN BELSEY - Councillors do not appear to have a rescue package in the pipeline themselves, but naturally, are looking for a developer to shoulder the responsibility of reinstating what is generally acknowledged as an economic lifeline for Eastbourne and the hotel groups that depend on tourists for their livelihood.

 

 

A bright ray of sunshine hovers over a building that is doomed if a rescue package is not approved

 

A RAY OF HOPE - A plan has been partially revealed that could secure the future of the pier for generations to come. The Cleaner Oceans Club cannot fully spell out how their proposals for the pier would make the once proud redundant Victorian legacy, a must visit attraction. But, should the pier be offered for sale in the future, these proposals should be considered by any group, company or state body before deciding what next. Hayley, seen above, is the Miss Ocean events manager. Just one of the attractions that could form a realistic rescue package. Copyright © photograph. COC Ltd.

 

 

 

 

Hands up who rode on the Southern Queen when it was operation. The SQ was completed in 1950. She was a seasonal sight, operating pleasure trips along the coast of Eastbourne to Beachy Head, first with her Sister the Eastbourne Queen then with the William Allchorn. Both surviving boats are now rotting away.  It is important that we save these beautiful craft for future generations and time is running out.

 

The Southern Queen and the Eastbourne Queen were built in a barn at Westham Village not far from Pevensey Castle. The barn was part of Street Farm of which no part remains today, though local public houses display photos of the farm with the Queen in the foreground. This is now a housing estate, much as Eastbourne’s very own Airport which played a vital part in training pilots for the First World War - now an industrial estate with a dual carriage way running through it. Do you know where it is. Did you even know Eastbourne had an Airport? It is interesting that the Southern Queen was taken almost two miles by road to her launch site in Norman’s Bay.

 

 

 

The Southern Queen is built of clinker construction and is one of the largest vessels of this type of construction to survive in the UK, if not the world. She was licensed to carry seventy two passengers, is 46 feet in length and weighs 27 tons. This form of construction is a dying art, as most boats of this size are made from fibreglass.

 

There is a project in the making to preserve some fine boats. If you would like to get involved in any capacity, contact: Mr. Lloyd Stebbings C&G Dip  Mobile:- 07885 022436   Emails:  pevenseymarine@aol.com  datelinemarine@aol.com

 

 

Firstly, some of the £2 million will be paid back to the Pier Benevolent/Hardship Fund, also set up within days of the fire, which funded pop up shops on the promenade by the Carpet Gardens and opposite the Burlington Hotel so businesses which had occupied units on the pier could continue trading.

The Fishing Tackle shop, Pier Gift Shop and Pick n Mix Sweets were among those who were moved in to the temporary shops.

Approximately £100,000 has already been paid from the hardship fund to stall holders and displaced employees for the loss of their livelihoods.

Benevolent Fund money was also given to the family of Stephen Penrice, the 44-year-old workman from Cumbria who died after falling on to the beach from the pier while renovations began in the early days after the fire.

As demolition work on removing the burnt out iron structure of the Victorian Blue Room was completed after Christmas, officials revealed what other local projects would be supported with the government cash.

One of the smaller projects is a major repair and refurbishment of the Camera Obscura at the sea end. The original projector, which gives a 360 view of the seafront, was installed in Victorian times and is one of the earliest of its kind. It was a popular attraction but fell into disuse in the 1960s.

The Camera Obscura was carefully restored in 2003 with a new stairway built to provide access to it but those stairs are no longer fit for purpose and work will involve restoring the east and west staircases leading up to the attraction to meet current standards. There are also improvements planned to the camera itself. A Christmas market is also in the pipeline.

 

 

 

Directly, or indirectly, the Cavendish family were responsible for three of Victorian England’s most radical, yet ill-fated, buildings. The 6th Duke of Devonshire commissioned Joseph Paxton, his head gardener, along with the architect Decimus Burton, to design the Great Conservatory at Chatsworth. And, soon afterwards, an equally daring Lily House. These eye-opening designs inspired Paxton’s astonishing Crystal Palace of 1851 which, in turn, prompted a wave of lightweight iron, timber and glass buildings up and down the country and, in the guise of seaside piers, along our choppy coasts, too.

The 7th Duke redeveloped Eastbourne. His third son, Edward Cavendish, declared the town’s 1,000-ft long pier open in June 1870. Its landward half was swept away on New Year’s Day, 1877. Damaged by fire and storm, then rebuilt and added to, the pier’s former 900-seat music pavilion and ballroom went up in flames this week.

Removed to Sydenham Hill in south London, Paxton’s pre-fab Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936. By then, the Cavendish family had given up on their Great Conservatory and Lily House; dilapidated, both were demolished in the 1920s. Since then, all three epoch-making Victorian buildings have been lauded in architectural histories. There has even been talk of reviving the Crystal Palace.

Our Victorian legacy, measured in infrastructure alone, is huge. From remote railway lines across moors and mountains, to awe-inspiring bridges and cathedral-like pumping stations, we have much to admire and a great deal to maintain and pay for. Can it possibly be worth the cost and effort to do so when what Britain is crying out for is investment in 21st-century infrastructure.

 

 

Another initial idea and one that is already taking shape with artists’ impressions drawn up is for a sculpture acknowledging the pier fire and the response from the community.

The sculpture is the brainchild of tourism boss Carolyn Heaps who suggested a quantity of metal from the burnt out mangled frame of the Blue Room be set aside and used to create an iconic piece of art on the seafront.

She got the idea after seeing the cormorant installation at Newhaven which is seven foot tall and made of galvanised steel.

Various suggestions were put forward including a statue depicting a murmur of starlings, which are frequent visitors swarming above the pier and a family playing hide and seek on the beach.

Carolyn said, “It’s about making something beautiful out of something that looks so sad and was destroyed. I think it will be a fantastic way of showing the positivity of the whole town – and show that something good can come from that whole awful episode.”

A spokesperson at Eastbourne Borough Council said this week, “No design has been confirmed for the sculpture. However, we can confirm that some of the steel removed from the burnt out structure has been kept for this proposed use.”

Also put aside for use within the sculpture is hundreds of two pence pieces which were damaged in the fire, left charred and have no monetary value.

“It is money that came out of machines on the pier and was badly damaged because of the heat of the fire,” said pier manager Christos Stylianou.

“It will be good to see it put to good use. We are also delighted the Camera Obscura will benefit from the government cash, as once again it will prove to be a great tourist attraction. It has been closed for some years as the wooden staircase had started to rot. The money will allow us to build a new staircase to the east and west of the Camera Obscura and we will aim to get work underway as soon as possible.”

A history trail is another project on the cards aimed at celebrating the town’s diverse history, both for visitors and local residents, by making it more apparent and accessible.

 

 

 

 

That, says the council, will be achieved by using a variety of media to tell the story “on the street” using a series of pop-in history corners at key locations – each carrying a different theme supplemented by strategically sited information boards.

But the biggest share of the £2 million cash though is earmarked for a new signature restaurant at the Wish Tower.

The original Wish Tower Cafe and Sun Lounge – built as what was hoped to be a lasting memorial to the people of Eastbourne who suffered during the Second World War – was demolished in 2012 after becoming an out of date eyesore, run down and in need of repairs, and a structural survey revealed it would not be viable to refurbish the building and all but condemned it.

Eastbourne Borough Council, which owns the land, had leased it to a private operator and signed the demolition order promising redevelopment of the site. A temporary eatery was opened in July the following year and the plan was always to develop the site with a prestigious permanent restaurant along with a new memorial to those in Eastbourne who endured the many air raids of the Second World War and residents who remained in the town and survived.

Attempts to find a developer to work in conjunction with the council have proved fruitless so a large chunk – £1.2 million – of the government cash will be spent on building a signature restaurant and once again artists’ impressions have been drawn up.

Added to that a memorial will also be built close to the restaurant thanks to a long campaign by the Foyle family. Their ancestor Gilbert Foyle and his sons met half the construction cost of the original building as a memorial to the 174 Eastbourne civilians who died during the enemy bombing in World War Two.

Now that the government money is almost in the coffers, council officials are looking forward to the future.

Council leader David Tutt said, “I am delighted the Government department for communities and local government has given the green light to this money being approved. Now we can get these projects underway and deliver lasting benefits for Eastbourne.”

Things are moving on at Eastbourne Pier too after the last of the damaged steel structure was removed.

Panels with viewing holes have been in place for many months and last weekend engineers could be seen installing a sub structure to the floor which will soon be decked.

Christos said, “The whole area will be open decking and we can soon take down the hoarding and open the area up to the public. A number of architects have submitted plans and we are short listing. It’s all coming together.”

 

 

Eastbourne pier in 1956

 

Eastbourne was still popular after World War II, because at that time cheap flights to other holiday destinations were not yet available. The Blue Room is the main building just after the entrance turrets. This was a penny arcade and games room in the 1960-70s, filled with amusements that are  now more popular at Hastings.

 

 

EASTBOURNE HERALD 30 JULY 2015 

One year on from the Eastbourne Pier fire, the owners of the seafront landmark are considering selling it.

Cuerden Lesiure said today (Thursday) it was “evaluating” its options.

The Herald understands the company is in talks with a buyer and a deal is imminent.

Talks have been going on with potential buyers since plans for a Victorian fairground on the decking where the Blue Room - destroyed in the July 30 fire - were first mooted.

Consent for the fairground rides was refused by Eastbourne Borough Council planners which the pier owners say was devastating and has left them with little option.

They hoped to recoup some of the cash it lost since the fire.

General manager Christos Stylianou said, “We are currently evaluating our options and are in dialogue with the council over what we can and cannot do. However, I fear we are too far down the line for the 2015 season.”

Today marks the first anniversary of the devastating fire.

In a statement released this morning, Cuerden Leisure bosses said, “Today marks the anniversary of the terrible day that a devastating fire took hold at Eastbourne, destroying more than a third of the pier.

“While it took less than two months to partially reopen the pier to the public, the extensive task of removing and rebuilding the deck structure and installing new utilities has taken a little longer.

“One year on and the pier is open for business as usual, minus the former Blue Room arcade, after a £4.5m investment. An investment that has seen the fabrication and installation of more than 60 tonnes of steelwork, 12,000 square feet of decking, 800 feet of balustrading and more than 10,000 man hours.”

Mr Stylianou said, “I would like to thank MPM North West, the professional team and all the contractors who have worked tirelessly to get the pier ready for the main season. As you would expect with a project of this size, the weather has played its part. 

We lost around 42 days over the winter when the cranes brought in to dismantle the skeletal frame couldn’t work because of high winds. Our original plan of being ready for Easter passed, but we did manage to make back some time.

“The delay meant we had to put back our application for introducing fairground rides – a Victorian carousel, helter skelter and the like - onto the deck for the summer.

“By way of background the pier already has planning for such rides, but due to the Grade 2 star designation of the pier, we needed to get listed building consent before we could reintroduce them on to the deck.

“You can imagine our disbelief when the application got unanimously refused by councillors, despite council and heritage officers supporting the proposal.

“The hoarding built to provide protection during construction has been scaled back, but it will need to remain for the foreseeable future due to it acting as a windbreak. The rides would have provided some protection from the wind and would have acted as a draw to the pier.”

 

 

Eastbourne pier after the fire in August 2014

 

GRADE II*WRECKAGE - Almost complete devastation was avoided because of the superb response from the fire brigade. The experience of some entrepreneurs is that the town do not generally encourage forward looking enterprise, but rather cater for retirees, care homes and Christmas coach parties. The council seem to be content with that and replacing shops in the town centre with out of town shopping parks. The best thing that happened to Eastbourne in relatively recent years was the Sovereign Harbour. That attracted boating enthusiasts and gave a lift to the staid image of the town. What a pity that there are not more attractions along those lines.

 

 

 

When this picture was painted the beaches at Eastbourne were pristine. Now that are littered with plastic bottles and cans. Worse still, fish netting is floating around in the English Channel that is dangerous to marine mammals. As if that was not bad enough, but the fish that we eat, ingest macro plastic particles that concentrate toxins and pass them onto humans.

 

 

BBC NEWS  6 AUGUST 2015

 

Two potential buyers have expressed an interest in purchasing Eastbourne Pier a year after it was badly damaged by fire, the BBC has learned.

It comes two months after Eastbourne Borough Council refused owner Cuerden Leisure permission to install temporary children's rides on the pier.

The company would not comment on the possible sale.

Property agent Bilfinger GVA said it had been instructed to undertake a "strategic options review".

"This exercise is expected to take a number of weeks to complete," it said in a statement.

Cuerden Leisure has already sold three piers this year - Blackpool's South and Central Piers and the Grade II listed Llandudno Pier - for a total of £8.5m.

About one third of Eastbourne's 1870 Grade II* listed structure was destroyed in the blaze on 30 July 2014.

It was partially reopened last September but a large section remains empty.

Stephen Lloyd, who was the Lib Dem MP for Eastbourne until losing his seat in May's election, said it was important the future of the pier was secured.

"The opportunity for new companies to come in to give this a tremendous lift for the next 20, 30, 40 years is huge and I think the town will really encourage whoever comes down," he said.

But the National Piers Society said refusal of permission for the rides would make the pier less attractive to buyers.

"I doubt if any potential buyer will be interested in taking it on if Eastbourne continue to refuse a development of some kind while the building itself is reconstructed," said spokesman Anthony Wills.

The council said the rides proposal was not suitable in the long term because it was not in keeping with the Grade II* listed structure.

 

 

Mr Gulzar is a hotelier in Eastbourne

 

BIDDERS - One of the  potential buyers was revealed recently as being Sheik Abid Gulzar, a flamboyant hotelier in Eastbourne who recently put in a bid on the Cavendish hotel. There are said to be other offers on the table, but these offers are understood to be unsolicited and not in response to any open offer of sale.

 

 

LINKS & REFERENCE

 

Eastbourne Borough Council

1 Grove Rd, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 4TW
Telephone: 01323 410000

 

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The Seven Sisters, famous chalk cliffs in East Sussex, Beachy Head copyright photograph

 

SEVEN SISTERS - Looking very much as they did during World War Two, these cliffs are pictured looking from Seaford Head towards Belle Toute lighthouse (Eastbourne) which you can see in the distance on the right. Photo December 2014. The location map below shows the location of Beachy Head in England. Copyright © photograph. COC Ltd.

 

 

Location map of Eastbourne in East Sussex

 

 

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