Council ‘committed’ to £13m Southport Pier fix but won’t be drawn on timetable

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The iconic pier was closed in the winter over health and safety fears and has remained shut as costs have spiralled.

The leader of Sefton Council said the local authority was “committed” to ensuring Southport’s historic pier is repaired but refused to be drawn on a timetable for any work to be carried out.

The pier was closed temporarily in the winter over health and safety fears but the expected £3million repair to the wooden decking has spiralled to £13m after additional problems were found with the steelwork.

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Cllr Ian Maher made the remarks at a full council meeting held at Southport Town Hall last night (July 13) where several questions and two motions on the pier were submitted as well as a council report providing an update.

The report, which was included on the agenda at short notice due to the “urgency and sensitivity” of the project gives an interim update on work carried out by structural engineers to assess the integrity of the pier.

It states the council is still waiting on a full report to be provided after a full structural survey was carried out but that “sufficient feedback had now been received”.

The report adds the cabinet “reaffirms its commitment to the future of Southport Pier” and is now working to progress the pre-development work needed to move towards the full refurbishment needed.

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It states that external funding sources are being explored with various organisations to finance the work needed to be carried out and to secure future money for ongoing maintenance and refurbishment once the major repairs have been completed.

The verbal feedback received from engineers, who had advised on the current closure of the pier on health and safety grounds, states there are significant problems with the timber joists, decking and elements of the steel structure of the grade-II listed pier.

Some of the work beed to be carried out immediately, notably repairs to the decking and many of the timber joists, with “significant” further work needed within three to five years.

The sun sets over Southport pier. Image: robin - stock.adobe.comThe sun sets over Southport pier. Image: robin -
The sun sets over Southport pier. Image: robin - | robin -

It adds: “Given the impact of the Pier’s closure on local businesses and stakeholders, and the urgency of progression towards a funded solution, these recommendations are offered in advance of receipt of the final survey.”

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Several questions were also submitted by local councillors. One, submitted by Cllr Mike Prendergast asked why the pier couldn’t remain open while repairs were being carried out. In a written response by Cllr Atkinson, it was stated this was because the pier remained “unsafe to open due to the extent of decking failure,”

Another question asked how much money the council has spent on the pier in recent years, which was advised to be £261k on pier maintenance and a further £1.5m capital spend over the last five years.

A further question submitted by Cllr Prendergast asked whether leaseholders of units on the pier would be compensated for the impact of the closure, with the response being that this information was a “commercial decision” and would not be put into the public domain.

Cllr Atkinson was also asked whether any economic assessments had been carried out into the impact of the closure, with the cabinet member confirming none had been but this would be considered in yearly tourism economic assessments.

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There were also several questions from the Lib Dem group about the pier and the report yet to be provided from structural engineers, Thomsons.

Both parties also submitted motions about the pier. Cllr Pugh withdrew the Lib Dem motion as it was “substantially similar” to that submitted by the Conservative leader, Cllr Prendergast.

Cllr Prendergast said there had been a “lack of information and clarity” about what was happening with the pier. With repairs being estimated to cost £13m, Cllr Prendergast said it was “important for this council to be able to set out plan, procedure and process that the public know about and have confidence in to get the pier to open as soon as possible.”

His motion included calls for a timetable for when repairs would be carried out to be submitted to the next audit and governance meeting in September.

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Proposing an amendment to Cllr Prendergast’s motion that removed reference to the timetable, Cllr Marion Atkinson spoke of the historic issues with repairs previously carried out on the bridge which led to a court case against the contractor, with numerous elements of the repair work being unsatisfactory.

She said issues with the pier had been exacerbated by a cold snap in 2022, which led to further deterioration and that the pier’s closure had been “unfortunate but necessary.”

She said the problems at the pier was a “challenge that faces us all” and the key to its renovation would be sources of external funding, which the council is urgently working towards securing.

Opposition leader and Liberal Democrat Cllr John Pugh said the public “expect there to be a plan and expect clear answers”.

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Council leader Cllr Ian Maher said it would be “a daft thing for us to do to agree for a detailed plan to go to audit and governance in five or six weeks time when we haven’t had the report.”

He said: “When we fix Southport pier it has to be done properly, in a timely fashion and with the necessary funding” adding that this “cannot be done in just a few weeks time.”

Cllr Jen Corcoran said Southport residents she had spoken to were “satisfied” with the work the council is doing to progress the pier’s refurbishment.

After the Labour amendment passed, Cllr Pugh issued an amendment calling for a timeline that would see more details provided to the next full council meeting.

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Prior to a vote on the amendment, which fell due a lack of Labour support, Cllr Maher said: the timetable would be “just ridiculous” adding: “To say we want it in six weeks just shows political brevity or a naivety beyond belief”.

Slug: Council ‘committed’ on pier repair but leader won’t be drawn on timetable v.1By: Lisa RandAuthor’s email: [email protected] reviewed by email: [email protected], Jul 14, 2023 13:26 (12:26 GMT)Download Text

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