SOUTH Parade Pier is under new ownership – and the consortium behind the ambitious takeover has unveiled its bold plans to bring the troubled seaside attraction back to life.
Six businessmen, fronted by Southsea entrepreneur Lawrence Mendel, have taken over the Southsea venue from previous owners Fred Nash and Dawn Randall.
Now, representatives for the investors – operating under a new company called South Parade Pier Limited – have announced their wish to transform the pier into a thriving music venue similar to the Wedgewood Rooms.
A ferry service could also be set up for shoppers going to and from Gunwharf Quays.
The plans include new bars and restaurants, but traditional seaside pier elements like arcades would be kept.
The hope is to reopen it by Easter next year.
Bernie Cooper, a property consultant working for the new owners – who do not wish to reveal all their identities at this stage – said: ‘The consortium says it now has a fantastic opportunity to renovate a Southsea asset which has been neglected for some period of time.
‘We’re not a charity. The purpose is to make money, but in a way that is beneficial to the people of Portsmouth and Southsea. It’s a new era moving forward.’
The news brings to an end months of uncertainty over the future of the pier, which has a closure notice imposed on it by Portsmouth City Council because it‘s currently too dangerous to walk on.
Visitors are barred from walking underneath because of damage caused to the structure by storms earlier this year.
The new owners are still looking to raise all the money for repairs, which while not confirmed, could be anywhere up to £5m.
Mr Cooper said: ‘The owners are people with substantial funds, but don’t have all the money that is needed yet because of the nature of the work.’
A team of engineers will assess the council’s report ordering the closure notice and a surveyor’s report dating from 2011 on a programme of replacement steelwork, which hasn’t been done.
They will then produce a report detailing a full plan of works to be done over the next eight months and present them to the council.
The council will then decide whether to lift the closure notice, should the work be completed.
Annual maintenance work over the next 10 to 15 years will be carried out once the pier is back open.
The price the new owners paid for the pier has yet to be disclosed.
Trust cautious about the latest takeover
A COMMUNITY trust which had hoped to buy South Parade Pier in the future has reacted to the news of a takeover with caution.
The South Parade Trust is urging the consortium of owners to come forward and speak to it about its plans – and wants to see evidence of their wealth.
Trust chairman Leon Reis said: ‘I call on the owners to come forward and speak to us instead of leaving the city watching no work going on.
‘We have had four years of the previous owners saying they will fix the pier and spend lots of money on it.
‘The trust is happy to work with any new owner but until we see someone who has the money – between £3m to £5m – to fix the pier, the community will be ill-advised to believe we have been told anything realistic about the pier.’
Malcolm Belcher is a chartered surveyor working with engineers to draw up what repairs need doing to the pier.
He said the work involves repairing steelwork in the promenade and main decks, and sealing holes that have emerged.
Workers are also due to assess damage from the sea end of the pier.
Mr Belcher said: ‘We believe the consortium we represent were best placed to save the pier, in terms of their commitment to the long term restoration of the pier.’
Lawrence Mendel, a director of the company that’s taken over, is also a director of Waterfields estate agency in Clarendon Road, Southsea.
Other companies he has been involved with, which are now dissolved, are Larry’s Eyewear and Connections4u – both in Portsmouth.
South Parade Pier’s rocky past
May 2010 - South Parade Pier is sold to Frenash Limited, set up by a consortium led by Fred Nash.
June 2012 - South Parade Trust meets for the first time to talk about its bid to take over the pier.
July 2012 - Police called after Mr Nash threatens to evict company which runs arcade over unpaid business rates.
October 2012 - Pier owners agree to close it because it is too dangerous.
December 2012 - Pier up for auction but fails to sell at guide price of £210,000.
May 2013 - Portsmouth entrepreneur unveils £30m plans to pull down pier and replace it with building including modern art gallery. Idea fails to get off the ground.
July 2013 Owners told by council to replace a rounded edge of the pier’s deck called a ‘bull nose’ or face criminal prosecution. A new bull nose has now been delivered and is due to be installed.
October 2013 - English Heritage pulls out of deal to provide £15,000.
December 2013 - Electricity supply is cut off because of unpaid bills.
March 2014 - City Council takes Mr Nash to court in attempt to get an order making him do repair work. His business partner Dawn Randall claims pier has been sold to a ‘very wealthy person’.
April 2014 - Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson meets new owners for the pier. In same month council says £100,000 from development of Harry Redknapp’s land in Southsea will go towards repairs.