Brighton's iconic West Pier is crumbling into the sea.

Heritage experts have urged people to make the most of one of Brighton and Hove’s most iconic landmarks before it disappears forever.

The West Pier Trust confirmed that a section of the eastern side of the pier had collapsed over the weekend as a result of the bad weather.

There are fears that more of the derelict Victorian structure – already ravaged by two fires – could disappear in the near future.

West Pier Trust member and Brighton resident Martin Brown was one of the first to spot the damage. He photographed the pier on Friday, but when he returned on Monday the eastern section was missing.

He said: “It was with great sadness that I discovered that the grand old lady herself had become yet another victim of the recent arctic conditions.

"Only two days before, I photographed the seafront and the West Pier at the height of the snowstorm and marvelled at how the remains of the iconic Victorian structure, having survived the Second World War, years of dereliction and two arson attacks, continued to defy the elements."

“On Monday morning however, my heart sank to see that the entire east side of the former pavilion had disappeared into the sea, changing the appearance of both the West Pier and the seafront for ever.

"As the years pass and as more of this structure inevitably succumbs to the elements we should all enjoy it while we can.”

The pier, designed and engineered by Eugenius Birch in 1863, was severely damaged by two arson attacks in 2003, then in 2010 the collapsed concert hall was declared a public hazard and removed.

The most recent damage is the first significant structural change to the skeletal structure – which is still the most photographed building in the city – since 2010.

Rachel Clark, chief executive of the West Pier Trust, said: “We don’t know exactly when it happened, but obviously in the last couple of days.

“Being a Victorian structure, it is extremely well built and since the fires in the last few years the changes to its appearance have been remarkably little.

“However it is a terrible, terrible shame, but it is unavoidable. The West Pier is a much loved landmark, but it is an unmaintained structure at the mercy of the elements.

“We really appreciate people sending us their photographs so we can see the changes.”

Engineer John Scatchard said the section lost to the sea was thought to have previously been a concrete balcony.

He added: “For a long time the columns have been broken.”