The West Pier will one day completely disappear from the shoreline but that could still be "decades" away, an engineering expert has concluded.

Following 20 years of disrepair and destruction, Dr Fan Zhang, a lecturer at the department of engineering and design at the University of Sussex, confirmed what many Brighton residents and visitors fear - that the last remains of the structure will eventually collapse.

Speaking on the 20th anniversary of a fire that gutted part of the pier, Dr Zhang, who has examined corrosion for many years, said: “The strength of the metal has deteriorated due to the severe corrosion and the fire also further weakened the strength of the metallic frame.”

She also said that the frame is so corroded that any hope of restoring the pier has been lost for good.


Since falling into disrepair in the 1960s, the West Pier has gradually collapsed into a shell of its former self. Successive storms and two suspicious fires caused the devastation of the historic structure and killed off any chance of restoring the pier to its former glory.

Most recently, Storm Claudio caused part of the southwest corner of the remains of the pier to collapse in November last year.

Dr Zhang noted that, with corrosion eating away at cast iron at a rate of up to 0.5 millimetres a year, a day will come when the last of the structure will collapse into the sea.

She said: “While this may not result in complete corrosion of the West Pier for decades, it is important to note that the continued weakening of the structure will eventually lead to its collapse.”

Subscribe to gain unlimited access to The Argus website and read all the biggest and best stories from across Brighton and Sussex

She also noted that “sudden weather events” could be a risk to the structure’s future, as has been the case in previous winter storms.

Although the structure will one day disappear from view, Dr Zhang said that parts of the pier could live on for considerably longer.

“The part that is immersed in the seawater could potentially remain for another century or more,” she said.