Community ownership worked for Pompey, so why not the pier?

South Parade Pier. Picture: Sarah Standing
South Parade Pier. Picture: Sarah Standing
The fragment from the Union Jack believed to have flown on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Credit: Sotheby's

Flag from HMS Victory and Lord Nelson’s love letters up for sale at London auction

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Scott McLachlan is part of the South Parade Pier Trust and a Pompey fan. He talks about his views on the pier’s future.

I’m a big fan of community ownership.

I have a share in my football club and have contributed small sums to societies up and down the country who are trying to save precious historical buildings and spaces.

It is no surprise then that I firmly believe that one of the most loved and striking features of Southsea should also be run by the community.

At the time of writing, South Parade Pier remains closed but it is likely that it will at least be partially opened soon which should be cause for celebration; but opening the promenade is the very least we should expect of any repair programme.

Private ownership has failed the pier for many years and sadly Portsmouth City Council also failed in its duty to protect this landmark and the public, acting far too late to a closure order made in 2011 which condemned the pier unless nearly £500,000 in repairs were made.

It is safe to say that nowhere near that sum has been spent and the evidence of decay and collapse is there for all to see.

Private business always needs to make some profit, it is inconceivable that any business has the required £5m-10m – a conservative estimate – that is needed to secure the structure and rebuild the facilities to an adequate standard.

These millions will be impossible to recoup, even with a decent annual yield on a completely restored pier, so why would anyone want to ‘lose’ that kind of money?

This is where a society dedicated to restoring the pier is ideal. These are not-for-profit and can access major funding from organisations like the Heritage Lottery Fund.

In theory it would take under two years to secure an initial £5m that would begin the lengthy rebuild process, alongside that you can add fundraising drives to tackle individual projects through a community share issue and crowd-funding campaigns.

But the question is, why should the community be successful when private business has failed?

Portsmouth Community FC is the example here. It was ravaged by private ownership and saved by its city and wonderful supporters.

Its success is something I am proud to have played a small part in.

What has been demonstrated by the club being community-owned is the immense pride it inspires in people and the encouragement to local people to help it through volunteering.

In my experience there are hundreds of people who love the pier and want to help its regeneration, so a society would definitely be able to persuade people to help with fundraising and practical support.

You’ll notice I haven’t promoted any particular group, nor criticised any particular group.

I simply want the pier rebuilt – to see families walking on it again and for it to be the social hub it has been for over 100 years.

I passionately believe that the only answer to the pier’s future is for the city and community it has entertained for decades to rally round and bring it into community ownership.