The words South Parade Pier used to have a bit of magic about them. Many remember the days when it was the jewel in our seafront crown and people flocked there for entertainment or just a bracing stroll.
Back then the pier was a real positive. People had a great affection for it and it was part of their lives.
How times change. Today we fear the pier is getting a reputation as a problem rather than an asset. It’s almost as if we now wish it wasn’t there as it has become an unloved embarrassment.
One of the biggest problems with South Parade Pier is that it is privately-owned. That means redevelopment rests with those who have so far shown little sign that they appreciate the need for improvements.
The outside of the dilapidated building has been closed to everyone but paying fishermen, police officers have had to be called to deal with civil disputes and councillors have raised concerns about how the pier is being managed.
It all paints a pretty depressing picture. Which is why we are pleased to report that a company is interested in buying the pier.
The trouble is that the owners are asking for what council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson claims is three times what the attraction is actually worth – an echo of Balram Chainrai wanting an out-of-reach £1m a year rent for leasing Fratton Park to Pompey Supporters’ Trust.
A community group is investigating how local people could buy and run the pier. But sadly we don’t think such a group is likely to raise sufficient funds, although we’d be happy to be proved wrong.
We think the council needs to look at other ways forward, because the pier is too important to be left to carry on decaying.
If a survey being commissioned by the council finds the pier’s structure is dangerous, then compulsory purchase would be an option.
Yes, the financial commitment would have to be carefully considered. But we believe the majority of people would be happy to see council cash spent on restoring the pier to somewhere near its former glory.