THE trust in charge of the West Pier's fate has insisted there is no hope of saving the skeletal remains amid calls for a last ditch preservation attempt.

As 150 years since the opening of the Victorian structure was celebrated yesterday, city figures joined in voicing their hopes for the future and more have come forward today.

But West Pier Trust chief executive Rachel Clark reiterated the idea was no longer possible because the project would be too expensive - with little hope of landing a fresh funding deal.

Crime author Peter James and Guardian columnist and Brighton Festival chairman Polly Toynbee are among those calling for the structure to be preserved.

They have been joined by more including Roger Bamber, whose legendary photographs of the pier have appeared around the world.

Mr Bamber said: "I think people should try and concentrate on trying to restore that little bit and re-attach it to the land, restore what is left and stop it reducing even more. I think there should be a way of getting to it and putting a beautiful attraction next to it. I just think it deserves that - the architecture is stunning, even as a shell."

Ms Clark said: "We cannot stabilise it - it is extremely dangerous" and defended her position as the trust's only full-time paid member of staff earning around £40,000 a year.

Engineer Jon Orrell, who has worked on the West Pier, said it was beyond saving, adding: "To do anything you have got to access it. You have got to get on it and under it and that is not possible to do safely."

Tim Phillips, vice chairman of the National Piers Society, blamed what he called the irreversible decay on "bureaucratic crassness".

He said the withdrawal of a £14 million plus Heritage Lottery fund and the actions of the Government's department for culture, media and sport which contributed to plans stalling had a lot to answer for.

"The Palace Pier was always the most successful commercially but architecturally speaking the West Pier was better than any other pier in the country. It really is fantastic stuff. It is known as the Queen of Piers," he added.

Experts previously estimated it would cost £1 million a year to preserve the West Pier in its current state and up to £100 million to restore it to its original splendour.

The trust - which is a charity and not-for-profit organisation - had a total income of £80,672 and expenditure of £77,266 for the year ending December 2015, leaving a surplus of £3,406, the latest accounts filed last month showed.

It owns the structure and the surrounding land, which is valued at £1.4 million. Two1866 kiosks which are in storage to be restored as a heritage centre on the seafront, and other relics have a value of £190,000.

Last year the trust was paid £75,000 in rent by the i360 while it was under construction. There was £1,962 donated to the cause. It earned £3,510 from subscriptions, a slight increase on the previous year. It has corporate sponsors Coffin Mew Solicitors and Austin Gray, according to the trust's website.

Staff cost the charity £40,937 - the majority of this was wages and salary, £798 in social security and £139 of pension payments. The wage was more than £2,000 higher than that paid in 2014 but social security payments were substantially less. No pension payments were made in 2014.

More than £4,000 was paid for insurance and £9,000 to keep the kiosks in storage. Telephone bills cost £840 with a similar amount for printing, postage and stationery, as well as marketing, publicity and website costs of £1,200. Professional heritage work cost £8,228, there were legal fees of more than £1,800 and at least £6,000 paid to auditors.

The pier will be illuminated for a second time tonight from 6pm until midnight to celebrate the anniversary.


WE quiz Rachel Clark, chief executive of the West Pier Trust

As it celebrates its 150th anniversary, many are calling for the trust to look at every possible option in order to restore or at least preserve what is left of the pier. Is there no way of doing this?

The thing is a ruin and has not been maintained for decades. The fact that it’s still standing is entirely a tribute to the Victorian engineering. It shouldn’t really still be standing in its state – it’s amazing. We are talking about managing the decline. As everyone knows it is gradually collapsing. Even the engineers are having difficulty in estimating when it could fall away. It could start very quickly. We cannot stabilise it – it is extremely dangerous. No one has been on it, not even our experienced engineers, since 2002. It would be incredibly expensive to preserve or restore – millions of pounds – even if we wanted to. It is an incredibly tall order to get funding for something that is not going to generate any income.

Many in the trust agree it is a wonderful structure but it is with regret we have accepted maintaining it just is not an option. We have an exciting aspiration to rebuild a contemporary pier.

You have said you would like to see a new pier built in its place by 2026. Is this realistic?

We are putting together a development brief for interested parties but parameters need to be outlined. There have been ideas for enormous, very densely built piers which would not be acceptable to our neighbours, residents or the trust. It will need to work with the i360 and be a light build. It would need to be top class architecture. To say 2026 is extremely ambitious but you have got to aim high and try your best.

The charity’s latest accounts said its total expenditure was £77,266 for the financial year ending December 2015. Where does all the money go and what funds are used to pay for this?

It costs a certain amount to keep the trust going and pay for its day-to-day running; organisation, phone bills, stationery, the insurance is expensive for the site, there is the cost of auditors and sometimes you need to consult lawyers. We have kept it to the bare minimum for overhead costs. I’ve sought to reduce costs like office rent by working from my own home for the last six years. For example things like a navigation buoy which is by the West Pier costs £2,000 a year to rent and safety buoys around the pier are £4,000. It is a very expensive structure. It is a delicate and potentially dangerous structure in a public area so we have to follow due diligence. There are rules we have to abide by.

Running a trust like this, campaigning, it all costs money. It does not exist on air, even with volunteers. It really does cost a lot of money. I think they are healthy accounts.

We received a rent from the i360 during its construction of £75,000. There is of course the money we have raised over the years and we continue to receive donations. There is a minimal £10 annual membership fee to join the trust. This is also used to fund the trust’s operations. Heritage and education funds are protected.(The trust is restoring a kiosk, one of six originally on the pier, which will cost £1 million and will stand as a heritage centre about the pier on the seafront next to the i360. It also runs a free session for schools teaching the history of the site.)

One regular, substantial cost is wages. You earned £40,000 last year as the only member of full-time staff. Can you tell me about your day-to-day duties and responsibilities?

I don’t feel it’s right and it is undignified to have to justify my salary. I work well over the 36 hours I am paid to. Negotiating the deal with the i360 was a very complicated process. (Ms Clark secured the deal which means the i360 must pay the trust between £100,000 and £250,000 a year now it is open depending on its ticket sales.) There are a lot of legal obligations that come with running a charity and rules we have to comply to working with the Charity Commission. I am responsible for that. I am the person who deals with public relations, budgets, leases and legal agreements, membership, trading activities and bookkeeping. Then there is of course the website to maintain, social media, it’s all done mainly by one person. It’s a lot of work. I moved out of an office six years ago to reduce costs. People are astonished when they learn how much work it all involves.

The trust has a £210,000 loan from i360 architects Marks Barfield which it needs to pay back. The attraction has also agreed to pay the trust between £100,000 and £250,000 a year in rent from ticket sales depending on its success. Rather than pay the loan back at a rate of £70,000 over three years, why not offset the debt in one go by not collecting rent for a while?

The good thing about the loan is it is interest free so we have got time to pay this back. During the recession the site had to close and we lost our biggest income streams. We had rent from things like the Rock Shop, the street market we used to run. It was a very hand-to-mouth existence for the trust.

We would be unable to write off the loan in one go by not accepting rent as we need the i360 income to function. It is now our main income.

Where did all the money go which was made from the Save the West Pier campaign?

I have only been in post since 1993, there was a fundraising campaign a very long time ago and I would be unable off the top of my head to find out how that money was used. It was before my time.

We are incredibly grateful for everyone’s support and there is nothing secretive about our operations. We are transparent and we would be happy to talk to anyone about our work and explain. They can come and talk to us or contact me.

Hastings Pier had similar but maybe not as substantial damage as the West Pier. But it was able to preserve the foundations, get a grant to preserve them and rebuild. Is this something that can be done here?

There is a difference with the Hastings substructure. The foundations were found in tact and could be preserved. This has not happened with the West Pier. It is a completely different scenario. We have looked and have not found unscathed foundations and it is not at all safe. I think what has been done with Hastings Pier is brilliant and impressive. We take off our hats to them. The new pier is marvellous but they had sound substructure.


Roger Bamber, whose legendary photographs of the pier have appeared around the world: "I photographed it when it was still attached to the land and then gradually it has diminished. I think people should try and concentrate on trying to restore that little bit and re-attach it to the land, restore what is left and stop it reducing even more. I think there should be a way of getting to it and putting a beautiful attraction next to it. I just think it deserves that - the architecture is stunning, even as a shell. So people could then see what it is like, but put some sort of attraction between the shore and the pier, but not amusement arcades or anything like that. It gives the feeling of how Eugenius Birch was such a skilled designer."

Kevin Newman, local historian, said: "I would be delighted to see a repaired West Pier and I think it's crucial to the city. The loss of the piers restoration programme was a real loss to the town. Eugenius Birch not only created the West Pier but also the aquarium so it would be great if we could see his whole range of buildings restored. It would be nice if a repaired West Pier had some sort of homage, some sort of structure or sculpture that reminds us of how the pier looks."

Peter James, bestselling crime author: “During the past decade the skeletal ruins of the West Pier have become one of our city’s most iconic symbols. My publishers even used the image on one of my Roy Grace book jackets in which they always depict instantly recognizable images of Brighton and Hove. I would love to see the structure preserved in its current form, or if it is too unsafe, even rebuild as a kind of modern sculpture, and perhaps a fantastic island stage for concerts and light shows.”

Robert Nemeth, Wish ward councillor, Brighton and Hove City Council: "If money were no object, I’d happily call for the preservation of the skeletal form of the old West Pier to be preserved as both a visual treat and a wildlife haven in perpetuity. The reality is that much has fallen into the sea already and the rest won’t be long to follow. A new West Pier in a modern architectural style has to be the answer."

Polly Samson, author "I find the collapsing wreck of the West Pier in Brighton incredibly beautiful and poignant. Built in 1866, it’s been closed and forlornly awaiting restoration since 1975. Though ravaged by fires and storms, you can still see its good bones. There was once a glass ballroom. All that’s left now is a rusting iron carcass but on misty nights you can sense the ghosts of the concert-goers and at sunset it plays host to clouds of murmurating starlings."