MORE than £50,000 has been paid out by Portsmouth City Council to keep crumbling South Parade Pier fenced off.
A one-off payment to place hoardings around the pier, plus £8,000 a month to hire security guards for 24/7 cover, has cost the authority £54,000.
But now council leader Councillor Donna Jones said South Parade Pier Limited – a consortium of businessmen who refuse to reveal their identities and are taking over the attraction – has agreed to take on security costs.
Cllr Jones said: ‘When the magistrates’ court order was made earlier this year, to make the pier secure, the council had to act.
‘Although it’s owned by a private firm, we still have a responsibility for public health and we were concerned about the structure.
‘Since April we have paid £8,000 a month on two security guards to be at the pier 24 hours a day. There was also a one-off payment to put up the hoardings.
‘I don’t think that’s a good use of public money, so I spoke to the new owners and asked them to review the security measures, and they have agreed to take it on.
‘I think it’s brilliant they are doing this, and are taking appropriate measures to get the pier ready for the summer.’
Bernie Cooper, who represents the consortium, said: ‘We have taken on the security work and we have completed a structural report, which was handed in to the city council last week.
‘This is an ongoing process, and the idea is to make the pier safe and have it up-and-running as a successful family-orientated pier in the old-fashioned sense.’
But Leon Reis, chairman of the South Parade Trust, which is trying for a community buy-out, said he’s still not convinced by the consortium.
He said: ‘It’s good the billpayer isn’t paying for the security any more, but more needs to be done.
‘There is no public plan on how the pier is going to be restored. The longer the owners hide their identity and hide their detailed plans, then the less credibility they will have.’
As reported, the trust has secured a £100,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Mr Reis said that money will be spent on drawing up plans on how to make the pier a community venue.
Cllr Jones also said she has contacted council lawyers to see if current owners Fred Nash and Dawn Randall will reimburse the cost of providing security.
Mr Nash said: ‘We never asked for the security to be put in.
‘I’m not aware this will be asked of us, but I welcome a chat with Cllr Jones.’