Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
Archive - Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Find by date
Other ways to search
Also look for
Noble: Don't blame us for West pier's downfall
The Noble Organisation, which bought the Palace Pier 20 years ago, has pursued a series of legal challenges to the proposed West Pier restoration, which now seems doomed.
Private developer St Modwen has formally withdrawn its support for the West Pier project after the Heritage Lottery Fund pulled the plug on its promised £14 million funding in January, having rejected a request for a further £5 million.
English Heritage decided last month that even a "back-to-basics" version of the original 1866 structure was unworkable.
Bitter criticism has been targeted at Gateshead-based Noble following the loss of the Brighton landmark.
Last October 10,000 people signed a petition calling for Noble to stop blocking the West Pier Trust's efforts.
Noble's objections helped delay the start of any work on the West Pier before storms and arson attacks in 2002 and 2003 effectively doomed the scheme.
Noble director David Biesterfield, speaking for the first time since English Heritage's withdrawal, insisted his company's stance had been vindicated.
He said: "Nobody likes to be criticised. A lot has been said about our motivation and our actions which was critical but I don't think was fair.
"But what we said has been entirely vindicated by the decision the fund reached.
"If that had been made a lot earlier, everyone could have been saved a lot of heartache."
Noble vehemently opposed the 112,000sqft shoreline complex which the trust and St Modwen insisted was essential to finance any restoration.
The company believed a competitive West Pier offering bars, restaurants and shops should not be funded by public money.
Noble called for planning permission to be reviewed, lottery cash to be withdrawn and a harbour revision order essential for the pier's renovation to be rejected.
On the day of the crucial fund decision, The Argus revealed Noble's latest attack - a formal request to strip the West Pier of its Grade I listed status.
Mr Biesterfield said: "We never had the opportunity to have our engineers on the pier but the line the trust took at the time was that if anything, the catastrophes of storms and fires probably helped the scheme along - they did part of the demolition man's job for him and they had enough artefacts stored away - which always struck me as implausible.
"If an old building is damaged severely, it's more difficult to restore it to its original state. The West Pier has always excited emotional reactions and there was always an inclination to let unreality run away with the project.
"If people had been a lot more realistic about it from early on, there wouldn't have been such a huge waste of time which allowed these catastrophes to occur."
He acknowledged that if the remains of the pier were eventually dismantled, Noble could face fiercer competition from a privately funded replacement attraction.
He said: "We've never been ones to complain about fair competition, whether it's something on the Aquarium Terraces or what's going on at Brighton Marina or in the city centre."