Safety check for pier after wind damage

Blackpool Council will fund a structural survey to ensure storms in 2013 haven't left it unsafe.

Blackpool Council will fund a structural survey to ensure storms in 2013 haven't left it unsafe.

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Blackpool’s oldest pier will be examined by experts to check for structural damage caused by severe weather over the past 18 months.

North Pier was battered by strong winds and high tides that caused £1m of damage in December 2013.

North Pier boss Peter Sedgwick

North Pier boss Peter Sedgwick

Now Blackpool Council is to fund a structural survey of the pier below deck as part of a series of routine inspections of listed buildings to ensure their safety.

Coun Christine Wright, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for culture and heritage, said: “The pier is one of our most important seaside structures.

“We’re the only town to have three and we’ve been looking at ways in which we can highlight the role of our piers in the history of the resort.

“North Pier is an essential part of Blackpool, and as a council who are legally responsible for listed buildings, we need to make sure we know what work needs to be done to make sure that it remains a prominent feature for years to come.

We love this pier but like many other coastal businesses we’re constantly at the mercy of the weather.

North pier boss Peter Sedgwick

“We’re hoping to bring on board one of a number of firms who have expertise in piers so that the advice is based on experience elsewhere.”

The council has a legal responsibility to inspect all its historic structures but the location of the pier makes this a particularly complex job.

The contract will be put out to tender, meaning the cost of the work is not yet known, although it is expected to be a five-figure sum.

The money will come from the council’s heritage budget although any required repair work will be paid for by the pier’s owners.

North Pier in Blackpool is returning to its old self after major renovations and repairs following storms in December 2013.

North Pier in Blackpool is returning to its old self after major renovations and repairs following storms in December 2013.

The council said it was not aware of any specific safety concerns over the pier, which has been refurbished since being devastated by the storms just over a year ago.

It said it was working with owners to carry out the survey and would pass on the findings to show what work needs to be done to protect the pier for the future.

Pier boss Peter Sedgwick said: “This move by the council is very much appreciated.

“It will help us understand what needs to be done over the next year or so and will also help us with planned maintenance in the longer term.

“We had begun refurbishing seating and decking in the summer of 2013 but the storms at the end of the year caused enormous damage and we’ve been trying to deal with the consequences of that ever since then.

“We love this pier but like many other coastal businesses we’re constantly at the mercy of the weather.”

After he vowed to bounce back from the disappointment of the winter of 2013, Mr Sedgwick has brought the pier back into use but he admits the storms set them back three or four years.

Bosses said safety was the number one priority in the immediate aftermath of the devastation, meaning planned improvements have had to be put on hold.

North Pier is the oldest of Eugenius Birch’s piers still standing and is the first use of the screw pile system for driving into shoreline sand and mud.

Blackpool Council said it will also be targeting the new Coastal Revival Fund which is aimed at looks at how attractions like piers can be used to regenerate communities and economies in seaside locations.