New footage shows the state of Brighton’s West Pier up close for the first time in 20 years.

Ever since two devastating fires in 2003, the pier has been too dangerous to access and, battered by frequent storms, experts feared the worst for its condition and prospects for the future.

But now, specialist drone footage shot by Sam Moore of Visual Air, taken on one of the lowest tides of the year, has enabled the ruin to be studied in detail, and its future assessed.

Despite being exposed to the elements, the damaged pier is in better condition than experts dared hope, and it is the arson attacks, not storms, that have caused the worst damage, they said.

Decorative sections are still intact and decades old concrete sleeves remain, protecting the original struts and piles screwed into the seabed in 1866.

Staircases used to board the pleasure steamers are still clearly visible and sections of the old promenade walkways survive.

The investigation also shows how while the pier may be unsafe for humans, a wealth of seabirds and marine life have turned it into a living iron reef.

Read more: From Victorian splendour to wreck and ruin: the tragic history of West Pier

The footage from the investigation was previewed at the West Pier Trust Centre, 103-105 King’s Road Arches,Brighton, at 11am today.

Built during a construction boom for pleasure piers in the 1860s, the West Pier was the second of its kind in Brighton - following the construction of the Royal Suspension Chain Pier (which was destroyed in a storm in 1896).

Designed by architect Eugenius Birch as a place for visitors to enjoy the sea breeze, the pier opened to the public in October 1866 by Mayor Henry Martin and cost £27,000 to build.

Tragedy struck in December 2002, when the pier partially collapsed during a storm, sending the pavilion tumbling into the sea. The concert hall fell over the following month.

On March 28, 2003, coastguard helicopters, lifeboats, police and firefighters were called to the pier after it burst into flames. A second suspicious fire ripped through the structure on May 11, with the pier’s last surviving kiosk swept away in a storm in December 2005.