Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
What price Mike's passion for West Pier?
Property mogul Mike Holland’s latest plans have put the cat among the seagulls perched on one of Brighton’s most iconic landmarks.
The millionaire owner of several of the city’s listed buildings says he wants to bring the West Pier back to life.
Mr Holland spoke exclusively to The Argus on Saturday, saying he wanted the West Pier Trust, which owns the crumbling relic, to step aside and allow him to resurrect the pier before its 150th anniversary in 2016.
His proposals have sparked a mixed reaction.
While some have welcomed his comments as a much-needed push, others say the only realistic chance of a new pier is for the trust to work with the developers of the long-delayed i360.
The 175-metre high observation tower, which has been designed by the team behind the London Eye, was due to be completed this summer but funding problems have delayed the project.
According to Roger Hinton, the chairman of the Regency Square Area Society, residents are split on the best way forward.
He said: “Some people still see the i360 as the best way of giving a boost to the area and getting a new pier.
“Others think it is never going to happen.
“There certainly has been a view that the West Pier Trust is standing in the way of development because the i360 is the only hope they have. There is no plan B.
“What everyone is agreed on is the need to do something as soon as possible. The city doesn’t have to have two piers but is important that something takes its place. “We are tired of seeing that jumble of metal rusting away in the sea.”
Mr Holland has said he will work with Angus Meek Architects, who were behind the £39 million redevelopment of Weston-super-Mare’s pier.
It is the only pier to have been constructed in the UK for more than 100 years. It includes a 4D cinema, a three-storey helter skelter and a 1,000ft go-kart track.
Mr Holland’s £25 million plans seem to be on a more modest scale and have been given a cautious welcome by the National Piers Society.
Chairman Tim Phillips said: “Well done to Mike Holland shouting loudly that he wants to see a recreated West Pier up and running before it’s too late for him.
“However, I’m sure he is aware that the West Pier Trust has a contract with Marks Barfield for the installation of the i360 observation tower and the successful operation of this will allow the trust to proceed with the re-establishment of the pier buildings and kiosks that have been saved for re-erection on an albeit smaller pier.
“I’m sure that if he wanted to work with the trust to explore a faster way forward, they would be pleased to engage with him.
“The National Piers Society was founded originally on the back of local pressure to save the West Pier and we are keen that all the nation’s seaside piers are retained in their ‘original’ form, where possible, but failing that as a modern statement to demonstrate to future generations that they can be the making of a successful seaside experience, attracting tourists locally and from around the world.”
The West Pier was designed and engineered by Eugenius Birch in 1866. Its decline began in the 1960s when the southern end was closed for safety reasons and it was given a Grade II* listing to protect it.
The entire pier was closed in 1975 over safety concerns, making way for a restored root end which opened in 1987.
Disaster struck in 2003 when part of the concert hall collapsed and then fire destroyed most of the pier, only for a freak storm the next year to finish off the concert hall.
The pier has been owned by the West Pier Trust since 1978.
A trust spokeswoman said: “We quite often get expressions of interest from people who are interested in helping us restore the pier.
“Mr Holland has not approached us but if he did we would be happy to speak to him. It’s great to hear someone so enthusiastic about the project.
“We remained committed to the i360 project as the best way of going forward.
“There is still the obstacle of the funding gap but that is by no means insurmountable and is to be expected in the financial climate.
“This just shows how much passion there is in the city for the West Pier.”