Earlier this month, the council announced that the RNLI are looking to invest into the historic pier and move their life saving operations back to the island, which will significantly improve their access to the water. The CPO would take place as part of an immediate transfer of property to the RNLI.
Council members have asked officers to make a reasonable offer to the private owner as part of a private purchase, to avoid the CPO process and speed the renovation of the pier up exponentially. This would be a back-to-back deal with the RNLI.
Leader of the Council, Cllr. Don Davies said: “Anyone who knows Weston will know that Birnbeck Pier, originally one of its foremost attractions, and grade II* listed, has been in decline for many years. It has been on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk List for over 20 years, yet the owner has failed to take action to conserve this important part of our national heritage
“An opportunity has arisen for the Council to intervene to not only safeguard the structure but to return the RNLI to their operational base on the island and to enable the public to again access the Pier and island, something they haven’t been able to do since 1994.
I would also like to thank Historic England for their ongoing support. Their professional expertise and commitment to the repair of the Pier is invaluable. Now that we have full council support, we can begin the process of acquiring this historic building and secure the future of Birnbeck Pier."
Mike Buckland, volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager for Weston-super-Mare RNLI says: “We are delighted that North Somerset Council has received the backing of the full council to begin a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to acquire Birnbeck Pier.
This is an important step towards the RNLI re-establishing a lifeboat station on Birnbeck Island, a goal the charity has been working closely with North Somerset Council and Historic England to achieve.
After many years of investigations into the feasibility of other sites, we are confident that Birnbeck is the safest and most effective place for a lifeboat station in Weston, by quite some margin. It is the only place we can provide a lifesaving service at all states of tide.
The move will be a significant investment for the charity and the future of lifesaving in Weston-super-Mare. The restoration of the historic pier will be funded by the application of grants awarded specifically for that purpose. We are fortunate to be able to work closely and be guided by Historic England on this aspect of the project and are grateful for the support from them and North Somerset Council throughout the process so far.”
The council served a repairs notice to the private owner of the Pier in September 2019, advising the proprietor that repair work must take place. No substantive response has been received, so a CPO option was initiated, with the backing of the RNLI and Historic England.
Birnbeck Pier is Grade II* listed with five further Grade II structures and buildings located on the island and the landward end of the site.
The pier was designed by Eugenius Birch, the noted Victorian engineer.
Construction took place between 1862 and 1867, with the foundation stone being laid in 1864 and opening to the public from 1866. The pier closed to the public for safety reasons in 1994.