CLACTON Pier has been crowned Pier of the Year by the National Piers Society.

It’s a big achievement for Europe’s largest pleasure pier and it was followed by Clevedon Pier in second place and our own Palace Pier in third.

But, and perhaps this is Brightonian pride talking, we think our own attraction has what it takes to claim first place from the Essex jetty.

It has been more than two decades since the gong was last awarded to the city’s jewel in its crown.

The Argus:

Other Sussex sites have been preferred in recent years, including Worthing Pier in 2019 and 2006 and Hastings Pier in 2017, with Eastbourne scooping the award in 1997.

But trade has been booming since the Palace was restored to the Palace Pier’s name in 2017 following an Argus-led campaign.

In October last year, as the Palace Pier celebrated its 120th anniversary, figures revealed the site had seen a 17 per cent rise in profits since the name change.

Renovation of the pier and its rides proved a hit with visitors – and there has been no shortage of them.

In August 2015, the pier was named the UK’s fifth most visited free attraction and by 2017 it had broken into the top four, sitting just behind the Lake District, the Peak District and Snowdonia.

Research from national tourism agency Visit England found that 4,684,000 people had made a beeline for the Palace Pier in 2017, making it the most visited free tourist attraction outside London.

This year, visitor numbers will inevitably have been hit by the unforeseeable and enforced closure during lockdown.

But it has adapted quickly, introducing a series of precautionary measures such as hand sanitising stations, one-way systems and temperature checks for staff to ensure visitors could enjoy a safe visit when the site reopened earlier this month. But, still, the award will spend a year in Essex.

The Argus:

President of the National Piers Society Gavin Henderson said he was delighted to present the award to Clacton, adding: “The investment and determination of the owners was clear for us all to see on our visit last year, and I wish them every future success.

“A most worthy recipient.”

Palace Pier bosses accepted the decision but are keen to claim first place in 2021.

Anne Ackord, chief executive of the Brighton Pier Group, said: “We wouldn’t want to challenge the decision.

The Argus:

“After all, it is a vote by all of their members and any decision is respected.

“But we do hope to be number one next year.

“The National Piers Society does a lot of work to help keep the future of piers in the public eye and has provided a lot of piers with much-needed support so we wish them well with their work.”