N.B. Please note that we may update the answers to the questions subject to further advice being given to us and in light of changing circumstances both within and beyond our direct control. We will append the date of the change at the end of each answer.
If you have any further questions please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
N.B. Please click on any question to go directly to the answer below:
Q1. When is work going to start - we were told last year that the bridge would be open in 2016 - when can we go on it?
A. Heritage projects on this scale cannot be completed overnight; this was a wishful thinking of the part of certain individuals. The project is estimated to take a minimum of 5 years to complete with work starting in year 2 from confirmation of significant funding. This is dependent on the Trust's ability to gain the required funding to restore the pier and also make sure that stake holders including Historic England, North Somerset Council and any grant or award bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund are satisfied that the regeneration can thereafter be self-sustaining for a future period of at least ten years.
Q2. Why are you maintaining the buildings on the mainland when you don’t have a lease yet?
A. The lease has been agreed in principle, the buildings on the mainland are being maintained because the Trust wishes to to continue use these as a base for its operations, CNM Estates are supportive of these efforts and allow the Trust free key-holding use of them. The ongoing work also helps to keep the public aware of Trust's activities.
Pier Master's Cottage – we intend to open this as a Heritage Centre to display the history of this and other piers that were designed by Eugenius Birch. The work of renowned local architect Hans Price at Birnbeck is also very important. The upper floor of the cottage is intended to be turned into office space so that the Trust can manage the project directly from the pier site.
Toll Lodge and Shop We have obtained a lease on the old shop from the current owners – North Somerset Council – we intend to open the shop as a hot food outlet as soon as this is practical so that visitors to the site can have a place to get something to eat & drink whilst they visit the Heritage Centre and view the fantastic panorama from the coastal pathway leading to the Kewstoke Toll road.
With the above two buildings open there will be more for the public to see and more space for the Trust to show the public the work being proposed for the future of the Birnbeck site and surrounding area. This work is being funded with voluntary donations of building materials and goods and implemented wherever possible by our increasing team of volunteers. (12-1-2017)
Q3. Why is the Trust saying a lease is preferable - why are they are not going for ownership?
A. The Trust looked into 3 options for the Birnbeck Pier site last year:
1. Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) – This can only be instigated by local government, North Somerset Council (NSC) do not have the available funds due to other funding cuts to carry out a CPO on such a high-risk asset. They could lose the necessary court case (which would be appealable) and end up with a huge financial bill which would have to be paid for by the tax payer.
2. Direct Purchase – CNM do not wish to sell the site. If they did, we as a charity could only pay the market value. It is estimated that the site is not presently worth the £500,000 paid for it, which would be the minimum amount necessary to offset the owners' current outstanding liabilities relating to the site.
3. Lease – This is our chosen option acting on the advice of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the current situation. It would be reckless to take ownership and liability for the pier, island & all associated buildings at a time when no funding is secured. It would not demonstrate on any level good practice nor would it demonstrate sound rational thinking or action on the part of Trust to place themselves & the pier at such a risk. The Trust has no capital or other assets and is dependent on its fundraising efforts to generate funds. Our present appeal is to support the development of the necessary structural surveys and feasibility studies in order to advance HLF award applications. We also have other operating costs, such as maintaining this website and producing publicity materials (leaflets and banners etc), as well as supporting the Trust's volunteers involvement in day-to-day matters (provision of PPE etc) and month-to-month matters, mainly event organisation. The advantages of this route are seen to be that all the risk for the site remains with the owners, the Trust do not have to pay out the huge sums in insurances or be ultimately responsible for the structures long-term preservation. Once we have adequate funding and planning in place CNM Estates have agreed to lease the site to the Trust with a minimum of a 25 year rolling lease. CNM Estates have indicated that they have no current plans to do anything with the island and have no intention to persue anything they had previously proposed there. They would be happy for the BRT to operate the Birnbeck complex indefinitely if a successful Trust-based business operation is formed. The BRT understands that CNM Estates currently have a mortgage on the property - this is not a barrier to the creation of a lease but would require the lender to give prior written consent for the granting of the lease. Please see this page for further details of this. (12-1-2017)
Q4. Why a 25 year lease - can it be longer?
A. Following a meeting with the Heritage Lottery Fund the Trust was informed that this was their minimum requirement for consideration of a significant award to the Trust. CNM Estates have advised us that if a longer term or different conditions are required they would review the situation and accommodate as necessary.
Q5. How much do CNM fund the Trust?
A. To date CNM have funded the following:
1/. Restoration of electrical power to Pier View so that the Information Centre could open;
2/. Purchased access equipment for the Trust to be able work on the building roofs and walls;
3/. Hired skips so we can dispose of the rubble and rubbish;
4/. Hire of the shipping container so we have a safe store;
5/. Re-glazed the broken windows in Pier View;
6/. Had new fencing outside Pier View manufactured;
7/. Agreed a sum of money to scaffold the clock tower;
8/. Agreed a sum of money to repair rotting frames in Pier View;
9/. Paid for the kick-start of the surveys to the main bridge and clock tower;
10/. Agreed a sum of money for legal advice as and when required.
Q6. Why is the Trust not pushing NSC to deliver a compulsory works order to CNM Estates?
A. During our early discussions with NSC this was discussed and again it comes down to money. If NSC pressed ahead and delivered a compulsory works order (for urgent/safety work) there is nothing saying the site owner would do the work. In this event NSC would have to pay for the works and this again would have to be paid for by the tax payer. This could be in the region of £1,000,000.
Q7. Why did CNM Estates buy the pier if they don’t have the money to restore her?
A. Unfortunately, this is not a question the Trust can directly answer.
Q8. Why have the owners done nothing since they bought the pier?
A. CNM Estates have only owned the pier since October 2014, they have previously presented a plan to restore the pier and build commercial dwellings on the island and on the mainland, but this was rejected by NSC. They have informed the Trust that they have no current plans to develop the island in any way, even though some conceptual drawings were commissioned in 2012 and 2013.
The Trust now leading the project working in conjunction with the owners. We are working to deliver a practical solution which will save the pier and its heritage. An associated commercial development would provide a valuable source of income which would 'match-fund' any grant the Trust can secure. It would also ensure longevity of the project by injecting sums of money to ensure the pier has a fund for lifetime maintenance and repairs (this is also known as a 'sinking fund'). (12-1-2017)
Q9. When will CNM pay NSC for the demolition of the Royal Pier Hotel and start the new construction there?
A. Contrary to popular belief, the Royal Pier Hotel site is not owned by CNM Estates. Instead it is owned by a closely-related company, Birnbeck Investments Ltd. They are in consultation with NSC, and we understand that this matter should be resolved in the very near future. The Trust has no involvement with this project. (12-1-2017)
Q10. Why are the RNLI not operating from Birnbeck Island?
A. The RNLI carried out their own surveys of the pier and were advised that the main bridge should not be used to cross to the island. This meant that the island and the lifeboat station(s) there were normally inaccessible other than by boat.
We were delighted to recently meet with a representative from the RNLI estates team to discuss getting the RNLI back where they belong – on Birnbeck Island. The best place for the RNLI to operate from is Birnbeck as it has the quickest and nearest access to the water regardless of the tides. We look forward to a future with the RNLI & would welcome the Coast Guard to base themselves at Birnbeck too. (12-1-2017)
Q11. Does the Trust use the bridge to cross to the island?
A. The Trust have not used the bridge to cross to the island since the RNLI informed us of the findings of their own surveys. Since then we have also had our own surveys carried out which look further in depth than those previously carried out. Access onto and across the bridge is now forbidden to all, with the exception of specialist engineers who have intimate knowledge of the condition of the structure.
Q12. I want to go on the island and take photos - can I do this?
A. All the Trust can do is to advise you not to venture out to the island. Not only are the tides treacherous, whereby you can be cut off from returning within minutes, but there is a gate to the island which has a barbed wire wrap. Once on the island, there are holes in the surface where you could fall through, and buildings which are extremely unstable in multiple places.
If you take the decision to trespass on the island (particularly whilst alone) please consider that if you were to sustain a serious injury and no-one knows you are there, you could potentially die on the island, having not be found for some time. In the event you that could raise help, please think of those who would have to come and put their own lives at risk to rescue you. It’s simply not worth it.
If you want a photo of the site please ask - we have plenty - it’s not a playground out there.
Q13. How do I volunteer and what can I do?
A. There are many ways to volunteer, you don’t necessarily have to come to the site - some activities can be carried out from anywhere in the world providing that internet access is available.
Pier View Information Centre – Come and pass on the vision for the site to the general public whilst they are here enjoying a hot or cold drink (in return for a donation!).
Mainland Buildings – come and help turn them into the Heritage Centre or Hot Food outlet, all levels of skill are welcome - we can usually offer some training if this is required.
Fundraising – Join our fundraising team and help organise our great year-round events, or if you have a particular talent please speak to our lead organiser email@example.com and then organise your own event!
Awards and Grants – Help the team draft letters or fill in the paperwork to apply for various grant and awards.
Publicity – Help spread the word, either by designing posters for events, ensuring social media platforms are current and up-to-date, or by writing updates for our website and other paper-based media.
Heritage Team – Help collect the history of the pier, the existing team are only scratching the surface here, there are various quantities of old papers and photographs in the local archives - all of these need to be reviewed and where useful recorded and added to our archives and to our web-based pier history section.
Direct Fundraising – if you own public premises and are willing to take a donation tin please let us know - we can drop one off to you. If you have spare time and would like to do street collecting please speak to firstname.lastname@example.org - we can organise the licences for street collecting wherever necessary.
To volunteer either visit Pier View Information Centre and speak to one of the team or email email@example.com and our volunteer coordinator Jackie will get back in touch.
Q14. Why should I give money to the Trust to save the pier whilst it is privately owned?
A. CNM Estates have in principle agreed with the Trust a lease, which will be granted once we have the funding and planning for the restoration of Birnbeck Pier in place. Our first goal is to complete the independent structural surveys and feasibility studies, these are essential so that we understand the whole scope and risk of the project and what we can do to ensure that the restored structure can thereafter provide an income to the Trust for ongoing costs i.e. for wages, services and repairs.
Your donations currently go directly towards the cost of these studies - without them we cannot progress.
The Trust is also working on the mainland buildings so that we have more areas to operate from to be able to show the general public what our vision is and what historical heritage we are trying to save. If you wish to donate to any particular area please ensure that you tell us where you want your donation to go.
Once we have the results of the studies in place and we know what we will be hoping to save, all regeneration donations will go towards matched funding for wider grants and awards.
Q15. How much is it going to cost to restore the pier complex?
A. The Trust have produced an estimate based on surveys and feasibility studies carried out in 2004. The scale of the project has been down-sized since then, but we estimate the present cost to be in the region of £15-£20 million. As the surveys are conducted these figures will be updated with new estimates based on the latest information. Once completed, we will have a better idea of where the costs stand at that time. These figures will be made public as soon as this work is complete and all interested stake holders have been advised accordingly.
Q16. Why has the pier not been registered as a 'Asset of Community Value'?
A. The criteria on which each nomination is assessed is clear that any property/building has to currently, or within the recent past (12 months), be used to further to social well-being and social interest of the community. Therefore, and unfortunately, Birnbeck Pier does not meet this criteria.
Q17. What happened to my money when I bought a plank years ago?
A. Your donation for the plank bought prior to 2012 has been ring-fenced in a bank account held by the Friends of the Old Pier Society. Only when the project moves forward to the reconstruction phase will this money be released to aid the procurement of new planks and the plaque to go on them.
Q18. Why do the Friends of the Old Pier Society and the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust exist as separate entities?
A. The Friends of the Old Pier Society have been operating Pier View to bring awareness of the pier's plight to the general public and to raise funds through membership subscriptions and donations to go towards saving the Birnbeck Island's Clock Tower. It also gives regular donations to the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust. It is a subscribable membership-based organisation and sends out regular newsletters.
The Birnbeck Regeneration Trust (Registered Charity 1103012) are dedicated to not only working to save the pier but also to assist with the regeneration of the whole of the Birnbeck area in Weston-Super-Mare. The main aim of the Trust is to save Birnbeck Pier and renovate it for the future use, but this is not an exclusive ambition. It is also studying the entire area around the pier site and looking at what else could be developed locally to help fund the pier regeneration with external commercial backing.
Enquiries were made to the Charities Commission about merging the two organisations, and this resulted in advice been given that this was not possible for legal reasons.