ENGINEERS are being called in to tear down the ghostly remains of the battered and burnt West Pier.

Owners of the beleaguered Victorian landmark in Brighton have finally decided to draft in a team of experts to remove the vast majority of the iconic structure which has become a hazardous scrapheap since an arson attack in 2003.

The grand old lady's famous concert hall and walkway will be torn down and all that will remain is the theatre at the furthest point out to sea which will stand like an island, cut off from the pier's old entrance which will also be left standing.

Dr Geoff Lockwood, chief executive of the West Pier Trust which owns the structure, said it was a necessary safety measure which would be financed by the planned Brighton Eye, a 600ft tower designed by the team behind the London Eye, which developers want to build at the foot of the pier.

He said: "We're looking at the best way of removing the wreckage. The idea is that we get it removed while we are building the Brighton Eye."

The trust is responsible for the cost of removing the wreckage and estimates it would cost up to £300,000. The trust will be negotiating with the architects of the Brighton Eye to determine who pays.

Dr Lockwood said: "No one's got that money and we want to raise that with the income stream from the Eye."

The charred ruins remain a Grade I listed building and English Heritage has to give its consent to tearing it down. A spokeswoman for the organisation said: "English Heritage is is proposing a meeting with the West Pier Trust, Brighton and Hove City Council and the engineer John Orrell to discuss the removal of the wreckage.

The trust hopes to rescue the pier's theatre and the entrance for possible restoration.

Once work has been agreed between English Heritage and the West Pier Trust, a planning application will be submitted to Brighton and Hove City Council.

Consultants Hemsley Orrell will plan and oversee the demolition. Tidal times will be critical to the removal operation. Engineers will have to cope with up to eight metres of water at high tide.

They will use a barge from Shoreham or Newhaven harbours to transport equipment and use a floating or jacked-up platform to work from.

Most of the removal will be done by cutting and lifting the metal from the sea with some of the piles being extracted.

The West Pier has a long and troubled history.

It first opened 140 years ago and remained popular for a century, attracted more than two million paying customers a year at one time.

It fell out of fashion and neglect led to its closure in 1975.

But many of the city's residents still have a romantic affection for the structure.

Kirsty Edwards, 31, a teacher, of Lambourne Road, Brighton, said: "I just think it's sad. It's the end of an era.

I can understand it's dangerous but if they had sorted things out sooner it may not have come to this."

But conservation group The Regency Society welcomed the move for health and safety reasons.

Chairman Roger Hinton said: "The sooner the wreckage of the concert hall goes the better. Our view has always been that it is not safe so we welcome this move."