SOUTH Parade Pier is facing a cash crisis as its owners fight liquidation over unpaid electricity bills.
A winding-up petition for the attraction’s operating company – SPP South Coast Ltd – has been brought by EDF Energy after months of unpaid debts.
It is due to be heard in the Bristol Registry Office tomorrow and comes after the iconic attraction also recently had its water cut off by Portsmouth Water.
The News understands that tens of thousands of pounds is owned to EDF, as it was after the pier’s previous operating company Frenash Ltd was wound up last year.
Both utility bills are now being paid by the leaseholder of the arcade and the new Boat Deck fish and chip shop, Owain Harris.
But there are doubts about how long that can continue – and concerns the pier could end up boarded-up and without a future.
Mr Harris said: ‘We asked EDF to transfer the bills into our name, so there’s no risk of the power being turned off.
‘It’s going to cost around £3,000 a week, but we have to pay it.
‘We are going to ask our solicitors to look at splitting the bill for the arcade and the main premises.’
Fred Nash is the pier’s joint-owner and the director of The South Parade Pier Ltd – the company which owns the attraction’s freehold.
‘I don’t think it’s going to come to liquidation,’ he said. ‘We are trying to deal with it.
‘We don’t need any electricity, it’s only needed for the arcade and now the leaseholders are the ones responsible for it.’
The dilapidated building has been the subject of controversy recently after the outside was closed to everyone but paying fishermen.
Leader of the council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said because it is only the pier’s operating company which is about to go under, its ownership status will stay the same.
‘It’s awful, absolutely disgraceful,’ he said. ‘But they are allowed to do it.
‘They are completely incompetent and the sooner the pier is bought by another company who can run it properly the better.’
Tory planning and regeneration spokesman Luke Stubbs said: ‘I’m very concerned about what is happening at the pier – it seems to be in a death spiral and I’m not sure how it’s going to pull out.’
Chairman of a residents’ group trying to buy the pier Leon Reis said the pier would be an expensive investment.
He said: ‘The true price of South Parade Pier is much higher than simply the purchase price, because the pier’s regular structural maintenance programme has been neglected for the past three years, since the current owners took over.
‘It is a legal obligation to carry out that work because the pier is a listed building.’
A spokesman for EDF said: ‘We have tried to engage with the owner SPP South Coast Limited over an extensive period of time, offering different payment solutions.
‘Unfortunately, there remains a considerable outstanding bill for electricity that has been used and we feel we have no alternative but to petition for the winding-up of SPP South Coast Limited to seek the money that is owed. This is not to do with tenants.’