A COMMUNITY trust aiming to buy and restore South Parade Pier has said the £10,000 boost given by the Heritage Lottery Fund will be used for the possibility of the pier’s buyers failing to fix it.
South Parade Trust has received the cash injection, to the bafflement of a group of six businessmen, who claim they have bought and are repairing the structure.
Trust chairman Leon Reis said the money would be used to plan for the possibility of the businessmen failing to fix the pier.
Mr Reis said the trust would ‘call tenders and appoint leisure industry experts to develop a business plan with specialist commercial advice.’
He said: ‘We are preparing for the consortium to either walk away or take over and then find out that the pier collapses and then walk away.’
Bernie Cooper is a surveyor from North End who represents the consortium.
He said he was ‘baffled’ as to why the trust had been granted the money.
He said: ‘I’m confused as to the lottery is awarding funds to the trust. Why on Earth is that happening? This is a long-term investment and there’s no intention or consideration of walking away.’
The consortium has employed workmen to survey and carry out repairs on the pier, and Mr Cooper has previously said they plan to have it reopened by Easter next year.
He said: ‘We’re on schedule with regards to repairs.’
A Heritage Lottery Fund spokesman said the decision to grant the money was made months ago when the trust was in negotiations to buy the pier from owners Fred Nash and Dawn Randall.
He said: ‘HLF’s start-up grants enable organisations and communities to develop plans and secure the necessary expertise to take on the responsibility of maintaining important local heritage.
‘It is not necessary for applicants to own the asset when applying for funding under this scheme.’
Mr Reis said he feared the pier was in danger of collapse after years of neglect and damage suffered in last winter’s storms.
‘The economics don’t allow for the consortium to repair the pier and make a profit.’
In May, Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court ordered the pier’s owners to build a 3m-high wall around the structure unless it was made safe by November 12.
Mr Reis said a petition urging Portsmouth City Council to order repairs to the pier now had more than 12,000 signatures.