RADICAL plans have been unveiled by the owners of South Parade Pier which show their vision for the future.
The proposed £20m redevelopment of Southsea’s most famous landmark has been met with ‘cautious optimism’ by city leaders.
The space-age concept drawings show a completely redesigned pier with two floors, a food hall and a large dome facing out to sea.
They were presented for the first time to residents at a meeting of East Southsea Neighbourhood Forum by businessman and property developer Fred Nash.
He told The News that the response to the plans – which were drawn up by the designers of the rebuilt Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier – had been overwhelmingly positive.
‘It’s still early days but so far we have had such a great response,’ he said.
‘It’s been 100 per cent positive.
‘We hope the pier could be really spectacular, but we want to do it right without any mistakes, so we need to hear what people think.
‘That’s why we wanted to show it to local people first and invite everyone to tell us their opinions.’
Mr Nash said a revamped pier with almost 5,500sq ft of floor space could have something for everyone.
His suggestions included a raised mezzanine restaurant looking out to sea for adults and new indoor rides for children.
He said: ‘We are looking for it to be covered over all the year round because – as we learned from the snow at Christmas – that is the only thing that would work here.
‘What I really want is a pier that appeals to young and old alike.
‘The designs are very modern and might not appeal to everyone’s tastes – but so far I have been bowled over by how much people like them.’
Mr Nash, whose company SPP South Coast Ltd owns the pier, added that although planning permission still needs to be obtained he thinks work could start within 18 months to two years.
Council seafront manager David Evans said he had met Mr Nash and the designers – Angus Meek Architects – and was pleased with the progress being made.
‘I would describe myself as cautiously optimistic as I always tend to be about large developments on the seafront,’ he said.
‘They have made some real improvements to infrastructure at the pier, such as air conditioning and central heating, in recent months.
‘There is also a new manager at the pier with a lot of experience in planning events.
‘The plans which have been drawn up look great but they are not going to become a reality overnight.
‘It will be a couple of years before we start to see progress.’
He added: ‘But just as the city council is investing in the seafront it will be wonderful to see Mr Nash investing in the pier.’
A holding company called Frenash Ltd was set up by Mr Nash when he and a consortium bought the pier last May.
Frenash was forced into liquidation by EDF Energy over a £21,270.43 bill, run up since the pier was bought from Cuerden Leisure, prompting fears the pier’s future was in jeopardy.
The running of the pier has since been transferred to SPP South Coast Ltd, registered to an address in Brighton.
Although funding for the massive project has not yet been secured, Mr Nash said he has already had interest from potential investors.
‘There is an American who is very into historical projects who has shown interest,’ he said.
‘I think we could do something really great here.
‘If you look at Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier it shows that if you have the right venue then people will come to it.
‘I wouldn’t be pressing ahead with this if I didn’t believe we could get the funding.
‘I believe we can do this and make it viable.
‘At Weston they spent £150,000 on a hall of mirrors and made it back in a weekend. That is the kind of potential we are talking about.’
Brenda Kidd, 70, of St Helens Parade, said she had been very impressed by the concept drawings and suggestions for the pier.
‘It is the most exciting thing I have seen in Portsmouth for a long time,’ she said. ‘I remember Portsmouth in its glory days and it’s really sad to see how tired and neglected parts of the seafront are looking.
‘This could be a welcome breath of fresh air.’
Angela Carpenter, 70, of Festing Grove, Southsea, said: ‘I would certainly be nice to have a restaurant on the pier.
‘The plans look amazing and I just hope they are put into practice.’
OWNER SAYS PIER BACK ON TRACK AFTER SETBACKS
PIER boss Fred Nash owns property in Blackpool and Brighton and is convinced South Parade Pier can turn a profit.
Earlier this year there were fears the planned revamp could be on the rocks after mounting debts and a personal tragedy put its future in doubt.
But Mr Nash said following the death of one of his company directors David Moore three weeks ago, his wife Pearl Moore had taken over as freeholder and his daughter Dawn Randall is helping to run the company.
He said: ‘It was horrible, we’ve been friends for 35 years and for weeks he lingered on in a bad way. It’s been a difficult time for all of us.
‘But his daughter has now joined to help run things, and she has brought new younger ideas. That’s what I want – a pier that really appeals to young and old alike.’
The company Mr Nash created to buy the pier, Frenash Ltd, was forced into liquidation by EDF Energy over an unpaid electricity bill.
But he claimed that following the destruction of Joanna’s nightclub in August it was discovered that the pier had been massively overcharged in the first place.
‘I thought the bill was far too high when it first came in, but EDF served us with a winding-up order without letting us investigate.
‘Then after the fire we realised the transformer across the road was causing our bill to nearly double. So we’re taking EDF to court.’
THE owners of South Parade Pier are hoping to follow in the footsteps of other successful piers across the country.
When he spoke to residents Fred Nash listed the Brighton Palace Pier and Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier as proof that the traditional seaside attractions can be financially viable.
Seafront manager David Evans said: ‘Weston was completely destroyed by fire and rebuilt from the deck level up.
‘Now it is performing well and that’s exactly the kind of thing which could work in Portsmouth.
‘An elevated restaurant of the kind that’s planned would be perfect here.’
Mr Nash also held up Brighton pier – which is currently on the market after having more than £35m invested in it – as an example.
‘Obviously we are not Brighton,’ he said. ‘But their success shows how a traditional pier can bring people in. Even the prime minister has said he supports restoring our piers and I think they can definitely make money.’
Weston pier was designed by the same firm, Angus Meek Architects, which is working on South Parade Pier.