A SHORT HISTORY OF THE BIRNBECK REGENERATION TRUST
The Birnbeck Regeneration Trust was formed in early 2004 as a later result of an initial meeting which had been instigated by North Somerset Council’s (NSC) Commercial, Planning and Conservation Department and was held in 2002.
This meeting was attended by several parties who, in the opinion of NSC, would have a vested interest in seeing Weston-super-Mare's Old Pier properly restored. The organisations present included NSC in its own right, the Friends of the Old Pier Society, the Paddle Steamer Preservation Trust, Weston Civic Trust, the Prince's Regeneration Trust and the RNLI.
The restoration of the Old Pier was seen by NSC as being the lynchpin for the process of regeneration and restoration of the entire Birnbeck area, this being the major part of the northern end of the Weston-super-Mare seafront and coastline. The pier had been owned by John Critchley from 1972 to 1989, and by Philip Stubbs from then until 1998. Declaring bankruptcy in 1993, the pier had been closed under his ownership on public safety grounds in July 1994.
The Birnbeck Regeneration Trust was thereafter incorporated as a recognised charity (Registered Charity No. 1103012) in the form of a private limited company (Company No. 05077252) on 18 March 2004, with the Trustees being enlisted from and nominated by the interested parties listed above.
The Trust then proceeded with the help of NSC to pursue the idea of obtaining a Compulsory Purchase Order against the then-current owner, White Horse Ferries Limited, who had owned the pier since purchasing it from Stubbs in May 1998, and had proposed but failed to develop and finance achievable plans for the restoration of Birnbeck.
Between 2004 and 2006 NSC and the Trust instigated and funded a number of structural surveys and feasibility studies with regard to finding a viable future for Birnbeck.
In September 2006 the Old Pier was sold on again to further new owners. The Trust thereafter worked with North Somerset Council and these new owners, Urban Splash (South West) Birnbeck Limited, to try and formulate a plan for the restoration of the Old Pier which would have been agreeable to all the concerned parties.
In mid-2008 working progress on the company's plans to restore the Old Pier came to a gradual halt following an international design competition held in 2007 to develop new ideas for the Birnbeck complex. Most of the suggested schemes were either overly ambitious, entirely impractical or extravagantly expensive. Outside organisations who had previously worked with NSC and the Trust started to lose interest and their Trustees began to withdraw from the project.
From late 2008 until early 2010 the Friends of the Old Pier Society, the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust, NSC, the RNLI and the then-current owners continued to hold monthly meetings hosted by English Heritage and chaired by NSC to try to formulate a plan agreeable by all for the refurbishment of the Old Pier. Unfortunately, these talks came to a final halt when it became clear that Urban Splash had entered into negotiations to sell the Old Pier to another party, its now present owners, CNM Estates (Birnbeck) Limited, a process which took a number of years (allegedly until 2014) to conclude.
From that time until early 2015 the Trust remained inactive and financially dormant, with only the last three remaining Trustees having any formal involvement.
(Image © and by courtesy of Martin Slade)
More Recent Events
In January 2015 a sudden upsurge of local interest in Birnbeck Pier followed an independent and supportive local gathering on the promenade near to the pier. A subsequently organised Facebook campaign to save Birnbeck prompted the Friends of the Old Pier Society to put forward a formal initiative to the remaining three Trustees of the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust, who thereafter resolved to reactivate the Trust.
A new body of Trustees was elected, bringing with them a range of new skills and experience. The Trust is once again working in conjunction with North Somerset Council and Historic England to hopefully bring this project to a long-overdue and successful conclusion. Since the Trust's reformation its directors have held extensive and ongoing discussions with CNM Estates about the future of Birnbeck Pier, but up until this time no permanent restorative arrangements have been agreed.
Unfortunately, storms and bad weather along with other destructive factors such as strong seasonal tides and uncontained saltwater corrosion continue to take an increasing toll on the now-unmaintained Birnbeck structures. These factors add enormous urgency to the need for all the concerned parties to act as quickly as possible.
Please see our Project page for developments since this time.
Please support the Trust in any way you can.
Thank you on behalf of Birnbeck.
(The above image shows further damage sustained by the North Jetty on 30 December 2015 as caused by 'Storm Frank'. The jetty has continued to deteriorate since this photograph was taken.)
(Image © and by courtesy of Timmay Curtis)Return to the Home page