Pier deserves better than this saga of ownership

Tents in the Isambard Brunel car park in Portsmouth

NEWS COMMENT: Wild campers in car park might make a difference

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It is difficult to know what to make of the news that the owners of South Parade Pier claim to have sold the structure.

The instinctive reaction is one of slight cynicism – there are claims that a ‘very, very wealthy individual’ has exchanged contracts with current co-owners Dawn Randall and Fred Nash.

But it is hard to see what such a person would get out of this – and plenty of schemes have been mooted in the past and have never progressed.

It would be hard to see the current owners’ tenure as a success. In the past three years there have been disputes with tenants in the arcade, the electricity supply cut off over alleged unpaid bills, the end of the pier closed to the public, and now the whole area out of bounds due to the danger of the structure.

The owners, of course, are not to blame for this year’s bad weather, but the pier’s level of disrepair well pre-dates 2014.

We await news of the new incumbent with interest. We would love to see South Parade Pier restored to its former glory structurally, but modernised internally. For example, being able to stroll to the end of the bullnose on a summer’s evening before sitting down to meal overlooking the Solent would only be a boon to our seafront.

The sadness is that this seems a long way away, and it highlights that the pier, regardless of who technically owns it at the time, belongs to Southsea and the city of Portsmouth.

Given the success of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust’s campaign to save a similarly-venerable city institution and keep it in local hands, it is disappointing that the people’s trust set up to purchase the pier has not been given the full opportunity to take it on.

So we are left in an unsatisfactory situation all round. If there is a new owner, we must wait to see their identity, plans and backing. If there is not, the ownership remains in limbo, but negotiations between the current owners and the trust appear to have broken down.

And all the while, the pier slowly rusts, crumbles and looks less and less likely ever to open again.