Pier Pressure

We’ve been off to North Wales- precisely LLandudno, for a few days. This was mostly a weekend away just to get away, but there was an ulterior motive; more piers.

The first, a visit on the way, was Colwyn Bay Victoria. It’s been totally shut since 2008, with a chequered history, and is now , frankly, in an awful state. There’s been the traditional fires in 1922 and 1933, with rebuilding, some highly dubious modifications while owned by THF, and a 1976 threat of demolition that was thwarted with a petition, followed by a further one in 1987. The full history can be found here at the NPS site, and also here at the site victoriapier.com, a site owned by Steve Hunt, with whom the story gets odd, rather than just the normal sad decline and abuse.

Steve bought the pier from Mike Paxman, who himself bought the pier in 1994, after, seemingly, the local council gave permission to demolish the pavillion and seaward end. Mr Paxman restored a lot of the pier, before running out of time, money, or enthusiasm, and famously listing it on ebay. Steve then bought it, and re-opened it in 2004.

Here’s the National Pier Society’s view of what happened now:

In 2008, in a highly charged dispute with Conwy Council, Steve Hunt was made bankrupt, something he fought vigorously to get overturned accusing the Council of corruption. In the meantime, management of the pier was vested in trustees, Royce Peeling Green (RPG) but the pier continued to deteriorate and demolition was beginning to be considered.

While Steve’s case is here.

To me, the whole thing is a bit murky and unclear- but the council now own the pier, having purchased it from RPG, and Steve Hunt is very unhappy about how this situation transpired.

Whatever, the pier is now in public ownership, and the council have previously stated their intention to demolish it, hence my visit to grab photos while it still stands:

Colwyn Bay Pier (West Side) 17/10/2014

Colwyn Bay Pier (West Side) 17/10/2014

Coywyn Bay Pier Entrance

Coywyn Bay Pier Entrance

Colwyn Bay Pier- detail of railings

Colwyn Bay Pier- detail of railings

Colwyn Bay Pier (East Side) 17/10/2014

Colwyn Bay Pier (East Side) 17/10/2014

Colwyn Bay Pier 17/10/2014

Colwyn Bay Pier 17/10/2014

Colwyn Bay Pier (East Side) 17/10/2014

Colwyn Bay Pier (East Side) 17/10/2014

Colwyn Bay Pier (East Side) 17/10/2014

Colwyn Bay Pier (East Side) 17/10/2014

Interestingly, within the last few days, there’s been a bid for Heritage Lottery Funding to restore the pier, supported by the council and Colwyn Victoria Pier Trust, just when I was thinking that the council’s regeneration plans (which continue apace around the pier) involved demolition for certain, and the whole bankruptcy thing was very convenient.

Still, mission accomplished, we mused on the sad effect that the A55 had on Colwyn Bay, (to be fair though, it does make the drive through north Wales less tedious) isolating the town from the seafront (not aided by other factors, including the Brighthouse store right next to the aforementioned road), and headed for Llandudno, more genteel, and with a fine pier mostly in good condition:

LLandudno Pier

Llandudno Pier

The one exception to the lovely condition of the pier is another story of neglect, a fire, and shady-sounding developers. Something I never remember seeing, but was pointed out to us on a bus tour (couldn’t resist a ride on a 1950s Leyland Tiger Cub)- the Pier Pavillion Theatre.

Situated next to the landmark Grand Hotel, alongside the pier, all that remains since 1994 is a few bits of wall and cast iron, following one of those fires that was definitely homeless people keeping warm, not arson under any circumstances– the contents of that link are, of course mere speculation, despite the building being left to decay for many years, and the fact that the owner has had planning permission refused for his desired development, and that the remains are listed, has no bearing at all. Property developers, after all, always have the best interests at heart.

Before and after photos here.

That aside, Llandudno remains largely lovely- Victorian, pleasant, bustling, but not up itself. The sweeping, wide promenade still looks nice, most of the buildings are well maintained, and for some reason, the sun shone, in Wales: we were sat on the pier, with the compulsory pint, in jeans and t-shirts…

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