A COMMUNITY group seeking to save Southsea’s South Parade Pier has been given six weeks to prove it can make things happen.
Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson has challenged The People’s Pier to come up with a business plan and a way of finding cash to buy and restore the ageing seaside attraction.
In return council officers will help the group by checking to see if the plan is strong enough and realistic.
And it’s hoped that if ideas build momentum then everything could come together before the deadline.
The People’s Pier’s intention is to buy the pier, in South Street, from its current owners Fred Nash and Dawn Randall and put £50,000 towards the cost of carrying out a survey that will identify what work needs to be done.
The council has been given £15,000 by English Heritage towards the £80,000 assessment and if The People’s Pier finds its share, councillors will make up the remaining £15,000 needed.
As a way of finding money, the pier group is considering offering people shares and is calling upon wealthy supporters of the pier and businesses to donate.
It is also looking into setting up an appeal online in the hope it will generate lots of smaller handouts.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The People’s Pier’s executive committee will work with council officers on how to build a business plan.
‘We’ve set a target of six weeks but we’re keen to do everything quicker than suggested.
‘The main objective is to get The People’s Pier to buy the pier.
‘I am very keen to work with community groups; just like we already have done at places like Southsea Skatepark.’
Leon Reis, chairman of The People’s Pier, said he was happy to get a plan ready for six weeks’ time.
But he said it would take longer to get expert advice because of the costs involved.
‘We had a great meeting with the council,’ he said.
‘It’s an interesting concept for the council with a budget of millions to challenge a handful of volunteers who have to do their fundraising but we are happy to produce a business plan in six weeks, as long as it’s clearly understood that some of the expert data we need may take longer.’
Mr Nash said: ‘The People’s Pier has got no money. We own the freehold and if it wants to buy it then it needs to pay us. We are not at loggerheads with the council and support what it is doing.’
OPPOSITION SAYS COUNCIL’S SUPPORT WON’T BE ENOUGH
CONSERVATIVE city councillors believe the council can’t give pier campaigners the support they need.
Councillor Luke Stubbs pointed out that the authority had already thrown out the idea of giving The People’s Pier money – and six weeks wasn’t a realistic target.
‘Conservative Cllr Steve Wemyss asked the council at a previous meeting whether it would help financially and it said no,’ he said. ‘While I am glad the council is offering some assistance, I’m not sure it would be enough.
‘Raising significant sums of money will take a long time.’