After several false starts in the last 18 months, it was a pleasure – and no doubt a relief to all concerned – to see that the doors to South Parade Pier opened on time at 10am yesterday.
And looking through the pictures and video footage from yesterday’s launch, one thing that becomes obvious is just how much the pier has been missed as a part of the seafront.
Most people who lived in Portsmouth at any time before about 2013 will feel a jolt when they see pictures of people actually allowed to stroll on the structure. After all, since then, first it was closed to everyone but anglers and then, under a court order it was closed to all.
But the simple joys of a walk with water on three sides are not easily forgotten, and that’s why it’s such a pleasure to see the pier open – like all seaside towns and cities, the pier is part of our heritage and culture, throughout its ups and downs, and we don’t half miss it when it’s not fully operational.
However, nobody should be under any illusion that this is the end. The opening is about 20 months later than was first hoped, and while most of the outside is improved and – dare we say it –gleaming, there’s plenty of work to do before South Parade Pier can be said to be a job done.
But compared to the dark days of Fred Nash’s reign, when there were frequent court appearances for unpaid utility bills and a seemingly real risk of the whole thing slipping into the Solent, things certainly seem to be looking up.
Given the chaos of the previous owners, those currently holding the keys will forgive The News – and most of Portsmouth – for taking an attitude of cautious optimism towards their project. We wished it to succeed; but we’d heard a lot of false promises before.
We will continue to keep a close eye on the pier, and we continue to wish the owners well. We hope to be reporting that, in stages, the pier can be opened up more and more and soon, it will be possible to do what piers were designed for – walk its length, get down to the bull nose end and feel surrounded by the Solent.