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West Pier Trust


Buildings : West Pier Trust


Brighton’s West Pier and i360

For almost a century and a half the West Pier has been Britain’s most iconic pier. Renowned for its wonderful architectural style, it has been visited and enjoyed by millions. Even today with its sculptural remains casting an eerie beauty over the seafront, the West Pier is still the most photographed building in Brighton.

Opening in 1866 as a simple promenade pier, by the early twentieth century with the addition of a theatre and concert hall, it had become a thriving centre of seaside entertainment. By the late 1920’s the fully developed West Pier was enjoying its glamorous heyday.

With the outbreak of the second world war, and the changed circumstances of its aftermath, the fortunes of the West Pier began to decline. As the fashion for foreign holidays took hold in the 50’s and 60’s, the neglected pier fell into disrepair. Declared unsafe, the grand old lady was closed to the public in 1975.

Collapse and fire

2003 was a catastrophic year for the West Pier.

A huge storm on 29th December 2002 resulted in the dramatic collapse of the south east corner of the Concert Hall.

On 28th March 2003 the Pavilion was destroyed in an arson attack, and on 11th May 2003 the Concert Hall also was burnt out deliberately.

English Heritage was commissioned to report on whether after such damage, the restoration was still viable. In December 2003, in a detailed report, English Heritage concluded that despite the significant damage, given the wealth of salvaged material from the pier and the considerable photographic and video archive, repair and reconstruction of the pier was still viable. It was therefore bitterly disappointing that in its meeting on 28th January, the Heritage Lottery Fund decided to withdraw its funding of the project.

With the loss of lottery funding the West Pier will now never be restored to look as it did in its prime. However, the Trust remains hopeful that one day a new West Pier will be built reflecting, in contemporary design, the grandeur of the old pier.

The collapsed Concert Hall, being close to the beach, became a public hazard and in 2010 was removed. However, the skeletal ruin of the pier Pavilion has become an iconic feature of Brighton’s seafront.

Aims of the Trust

The West Pier Trust was created in 1978. It is a charity and a limited company which owns the pier and the rights that attach to it. It is non-profit making.The objects for which the Trust is established are:

  1. to preserve and enhance for the public benefit the area comprising the Pier, the foreshore around and below it and their immediate surroundings which are hereinafter referred to as ‘the area of benefit’;
  2. to promote high standards of planning and architecture in the area of benefit;
  3. to secure the preservation protection development and improvement of features of historic interest in the area of benefit.

Initially the Trust’s aim was to restore the pier and return it to pubic use. After several near misses in the 1980s a real opportunity of achieving the restoration came with the creation of the National Lottery in 1994. The Prime Minister, John Major, quoted the pier as an example of the sort of project whose only hope of success would be via an injection of Lottery monies.

New West Pier Consultation Report

The public consultation on a new West Pier took place between September 2014 and February 2015. Its starting point was the document ‘A new West Pier? A Bridge to the Future’. Here is the report containing the Trust’s findings. It makes recommendations and suggests next steps.
IMAGE CREDIT: Jason Gritton, Public Gallery, West Pier Trust

The report covers the process in some detail but in summary:

  • The majority of consultees wish to see some form of new West Pier.
  • Consultees accept the starting assumptions that the Trust has to fulfil its obligations (such as clearing the sea bed of wreckage and establishing a West Pier heritage centre) before embarking upon a campaign to build a new pier
  • The preference is for a low density promenade style pier with some innovative cultural attraction.
  • Consultees share the Trust Board’s concerns on how to finance such a pier without resorting to a high density, commercial development
  • Consultees recognise that this is very much a long-term goal.  It will not be feasible to secure a new pier overnight because of funding and other constraints.  Additionally, it will be beneficial for the i360 to become established before a major new development in the area is contemplated.

West Pier Trust
Brighton’s West Pier and i360
Collapse and fire
Aims of the Trust
New West Pier Consultation Report

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For almost a century and a half the West Pier has been Britain’s most iconic pier