A CONTEMPORARY West Pier could be built on the site of the original structure by 2026, its owners have said.

Bosses are drawing up plans to guide architects and developers in anticipation of increased interest once the i360 is up and running later this year.

The West Pier Trust, which owns the site, has said it wants to see a dynamic and unusual pier which will reflect the city.

The comments come following fears for the original structure after further damage was inflicted by Storm Imogen.

Critics have also questioned the trust's record and have cast doubts on whether it can deliver a new pier.

Defending the trust, chairman Glynn Jones said: "It won't be easy and it isn't going to happen overnight.

"But just look at the i360. When that was first proposed people said it would never happen.

"It will be unlike anything seen before. It will be a new pier, dynamic and usual and reflective of the city today."

Rachel Clark, who has been the trust's chief executive since 1993, also said the idea of a new pier by 2026 was feasible.

She said: "That is our long term goal and I'm realistic that with the success of the i360 we will see renewed interest."

The trust board originally intended to restore the West Pier but after two devastating fires and the withdrawal of Lottery Funding, there was a change of direction.

Members backed the i360 and plan to take advantage of increased footfall to launch a bid for a new pier.

In return for leasing the land to the i360, the trust will receive up to £250,000 per annum from next year which they will use to pay off their hundreds of thousands of pounds of debt.

The trust has some 400 members - paying £10 annual membership each - and one paid full-time member of staff, Rachel Clark, who according to the latest accounts cost the organisation £41,396.

But not everyone is as optimistic about the future of the site under the trust.

Anthony Seldon, author of Brave New City: Brighton and Hove Past, Present, Future, said he had his doubts the trust would be able to lead the project for a new pier.

He said: “I would love the trust to be the group to get the pier rebuilt but I have serious doubts.

“There is simply not enough money in the city for it to happen.

“Unfortunately I don’t think it is going to happen.”

Businessman Mike Holland, who presented plans to rebuild the pier in 2012, said it was time for the trust to wind up.

He said: "They got behind the i360 and with it set to open in the summer, they have achieved what they set out to do.

"They should clear the rusting hulk before anyone is seriously hurt then wrap it up and call it a day.

"They should make way and allow a private investor to come forward for a new pier. Nothing will happen while they are involved."

Peter Kyle, MP for Hove, who this week said he wants to see a new pier near the King Alfred, said it made no sense to build at the West Pier site.

He said it was important to spread the wealth and visitors across the city and would hold talks with the trust about shifting their plans west.


The Argus:

What is the West Pier Trust?

The West Pier Trust was founded in 1978 following the closure of the Victorian structure three years earlier.

It is a charity and a limited company which owns the pier and is a non-profit making organisation.

The trust’s current aims, as stated on its website, are to preserve and enhance the pier area, promote high standards of planning and architecture and to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of the area.

The trust does not plan to preserve the pier frame or to rebuild the West Pier. It aims to build a new contemporary pier on the site of the existing structure.

How did it come to acquire the West Pier?

When the pier closed in 1975 the West Pier Company was put into liquidation.

In 1978 the pier passed into the ownership of the Crown Estate Commissioners.

The West Pier Trust formed and an Act of Parliament gives the trust the sole right to operate the pier.

In 1983 the trust bought the pier for just £100 and has owned it ever since. The land is now worth £1.4 million.

How have its aims changed over the years?

For the first 25 years of its existence, the trust’s goal was to restore the Victorian West Pier and return it to public use.

The trust looked set to achieve this in the early 2000s after it secured Lottery Funding and a private backer. However, storms in late 2002 and two fires in 2003 scuppered the dream.

Initially, the trust decided to continue with its plans but funding was cut and the private backer pulled out.

In 2005, English Heritage urged the trust to change direction and consider the notion of a new pier. The trust agreed and started the search for a new private backer having sunk into significant financial difficulties.

Then in 2006 planning permission was granted for the i360 on the site of the landward section of the West Pier. i360 bosses agreed to pay the trust at least £100,000 a year once the attraction was complete and the trust backed the project and changed its objectives to develop the landward section of the pier through the i360 project. The trust claimed a new pier is more – not less – likely as a result of the i360 being built.

The trust continues to back the i360 and plans to build a new pier on the site of West Pier.

What is the agreement with the i360?

The trust has signed a 125-year lease with i360 bosses whereby they pay the trust £70,000 a year during construction and then £100,000 to £250,000 a year once complete – depending on how well the i360 performs.  Following the agreement Austin Gray property valuation specialists valued the freehold at £1.4 million.

What will they spend the i360 money on?

The trust is in debt following the collapse of the development in the early 2000s and has hundreds of thousands of pounds to pay back to lenders.

As part of the i360 planning permission, the trust is also required to remove all wreckage from the original West Pier which is currently sitting on the sea bed within two years of the viewing tower opening. This does not include the pier skeleton which remains above the water. However, the trust estimates this will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. As a result all income from the i360 from the first five to 10 years is expected to go towards the clearance work and paying back lenders.

Who is on the board?

According to the annual return filed in November last year, there are 18 company directors.

The first is Rachel Clark who has been the chief executive since 1993. She is the only paid full-time member of staff.

According to the latest accounts she costs the trust £41,396 (including social security) per year. She told The Argus that while the majority of that goes towards her salary, other part-time members of staff are brought in on an ad hoc basis.

The others are Labour peer Baroness Elizabeth Andrews OBE, Matthew Carney, architect Richard Coleman, university lecturer professor Frederick Gray, solicitor Roger Hartwell, former chief executive of Brighton and Hove City Council Glynn Jones, academic professor Stuart Laing, one of the founders of the University of Sussex Geoffrey Lockwood, Christopher Mortimer, graphic designer David O’Connor, accountant Stephen Pavey, retired civil servant Nigel Pittman, Audrey Simpson, journalist Nick Szczepanik, Argus columnist Adam Trimingham, university lecturer Dr Helen Walker, John Wells-Thorpe and Sal Wilson.

What do they spend their money on?

For the year ending December 2014, the latest accounts available, the trust spent £82,410.

More than half that went on staff costs (£41,396), £4,063 of which was social security payments.

The accounts state there is just one paid full-time equivalent member of staff (chief executive Rachel Clark).

The next highest outgoing (£9,937) was for repairs followed by £7,971 for legal and professional fees and £6,895 for insurance.

Other costs include the hire of a navigational buoy to keep boats away from the wreck (£2,000), rents and rates (£2,375) and printing, postage and stationery (£2,095).

Over the same period, £56,731 came in to the trust. The vast majority (£40,000) came from the i360 agreement which was the first instalment of the £70,000 per year construction rent. West Pier Trust subscriptions generated £3,380 (£10 per member per year) and £3,911 came from donations.  An extra £8,305 was generated from the sale of artifacts, book sales, tours and licence fees.

What will the trust do with the West Pier skeleton?

The preservation of the West Pier skeleton is not part of its plans.

Speaking after Storm Imogen, Rachel Clark said while preservation of the structure was a “lovely interesting idea” it was not possible unless there was a “bottomless pit of money”.

If a new contemporary pier is to be built on the site then the West Pier skeleton will have to be removed which the trust estimates will cost hundreds of  thousands if not millions of pounds.

So what is next?

The trust is putting together a developers’ brief for what it wants the new pier to look like.

Board members anticipate a rush of interest from developers and private backers once the i360 is open.

The chairman, Glynn Jones, said he hoped to have the brief “well on the way” by the end of the year and ready to show to prospective designers.

He said the brief would be based on the results of a public consultation the trust has already held which indicated a “light touch contemporary” pier.

He said it would have to be dynamic, unusual and made  with only the best materials and should reflect the city as it is today.

Any proposals will also have to indicate where the money is coming from.

Mr Jones estimated a new pier could cost in the region of £20 million to £30 million.


The Argus: Rachel Clark (620px)

RACHEL Clark has been at the helm of the West Pier Trust since 1993.

She was educated at prestigious public school Millfield near Glastonbury, Somerset, before going to university in London.

After graduating in 1981 she worked for a range of non-profit organisations.

Notably she worked as part of a project to convert a building into a theatre prior to joining the West Pier Trust in 1993.

She was instrumental in progressing planning for its restoration in the late 1990s and early 2000s and secured the multi-million pound lottery grant. But in 2003 she literally saw her dreams go up in smoke as two fires ravaged what was left of the structure.

In the following years she led the trust’s change of direction as it abandoned plans to restore the pier to its 1920s' glory and instead backed the i360.

She helped secure the deal which will mean the trust is given up to £250,000 a year from i360 bosses and has been instrumental in making the i360 a reality.

She is the trust’s only full-time member employee and her responsibilities include public relations, budgets, dealing with leases and legal agreements, membership issues, trading activities and accounts.

According to the latest accounts filed, £41,396 was spent on her as the trust’s one staff member.

She told The Argus that while most of that amount makes up her salary, other part-time staff members are brought in on an ad hoc basis.


The Argus: The West Pier in its glory daysThe West Pier in its glory days

THE West Pier, designed by Eugenius Birch, was opened to much fanfare in 1866.

It hit its peak in the 1920s with more than two million paying visitors a year.  By the 1950s it had gone into decline and by 1975 it was closed to the public.

The West Pier Trust was formed in 1978 and in 1983 it bought the pier for just £100 from the Crown Estate Commissioners.

Following grants from Brighton Council and English Heritage, work started on a restoration project but in 1987/8 storms caused significant damage and a 110ft section was removed.

More years of uncertainty followed before the Heritage Lottery fund made £14 million available in the late 1990s. A private partner was found and work was set to commence on the rebuilding of the West Pier.

The work was delayed by a legal challenge from the Palace Pier and then in 2003 two devastating fires scuppered the plans.

Funding was cut and the private backer pulled out. English Heritage urged the trust to ditch its plans and instead focus on a new pier.

The board backed the i360, which got planning permission in 2006, and a deal was struck which will result in it receiving £100,000 plus a year.

The trust held a public consultation on the future of the site and following the results it decided to press ahead with plans for a new pier once the i360 is up and running.