FEARS have been raised over the future of South Parade Pier after the company responsible for running it was forced into liquidation over an unpaid electricity bill.
Frenash Ltd was set up by property dealer Fred Nash when he and a consortium bought the pier last May.
Mr Nash promised that investment would be made to bring it back to its 1950s glory – but so far no work apart from running repairs have been done.
And Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Southsea seafront manager David Evans say they’re frustrated that at a meeting recently to discuss the pier, Mr Nash did not tell them of his company’s dire straits.
Mr Evans said: ‘We’re disappointed that we weren’t made aware of it, and we’ll work with Mr Nash to try and improve the situation and find ways of going forward.
‘It’s crucial to the seafront that this iconic building is sustained and developed.
‘I’m quite disappointed that we’re 12 months on now and, whilst I feel confident that something will happen in the future, I’m a little impatient to see it happen now.’
The council has no control over the pier, and whilst it is a community and tourist attraction, it has no power to force Mr Nash to do any work on it.
‘All we can do is encourage and support them, as with any other business,’ said Cllr Vernon-Jackson.
‘I’m concerned over the future of the pier.
‘I’d hope that if they can’t run it and run it successfully, I hope they’ll sell it to someone who can.
‘The pier could be very successful but it needs investment to be successful.’
Frenash Ltd was a holding company, which was forced into liquidation by EDF Energy over a £21,270.43 bill, run up since the pier was bought from Cuerden Leisure.
The running of the pier has since been transferred to another holding company.
That firm is SPP South Coast Ltd, registered to an address in Brighton, where a third company, The South Parade Pier Ltd, is also registered.
All three companies were set up within a day of each other in November last year.
Mr Nash’s property company, Matchams (south coast) ltd, which he was reported to be running when he made the bid for the pier, was dissolved in April 2010, a month before the sale.
It’s tough but future is secure says owner
PIER owner Fred Nash told The News that the future of the venue was secure.
He said that once the summer season kicked in the venue will have at least broken even in the year since he took over the ownership.
He said: ‘We had a lousy time at Christmas, all that bad weather, but we worked hard to try and keep the events running, but then EDF decided to apply for a winding up order.
‘All they had to do was sit back and wait until the summer season and there would have been no problem, but they couldn’t wait.
‘Money is short and the banks aren’t lending, and we’ve got to work through the refurbishment using our own money.
‘We want this to work – the previous company was losing £300,000 a year.
‘If EDF had waited, we’d have broken even and even made a little bit on top. But they didn’t wait.’
Since Mr Nash has taken over, the pier offers charities the use of the venue free of charge.
Plans to refurbish it and generate income include placing solar panels on its roof.
‘We do want to enhance this pier,’ Mr Nash said.