IT HAS been revealed that a private buyer is interested in taking ownership of South Parade Pier.
But the leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, told a 100-strong audience at the Royal Beach Hotel that the current owners are asking for ‘three times’ what the attraction is worth.
The dilapidated building has been the subject of controversy recently after the outside was closed to everyone but paying fishermen.
Police officers have also recently attended the pier to deal with civil disputes and councillors have raised concerns about how it is being managed.
This has prompted a community group, formed out of the East Southsea and Eastney neighbourhood forums, to investigate how local people could raise enough money to buy and take over the running of the attraction.
But at a meeting to discuss the city centre and seafront masterplans on Wednesday, the news that a new buyer is in the frame was welcomed by people keen to see the attraction redeveloped.
There were also calls for the council to use a compulsory purchase order to buy the pier if the owners are not able to refurbish it.
But Cllr Vernon-Jackson said this would not be legal unless the pier could be shown to be dangerous because of serious neglect.
He said: ‘The advice we have is that the council does not have the power to purchase this building.
‘We all agree that the current owners are extremely bad for the pier. We also know there is another private company who want to buy the pier and they have a much better track record of looking after things.’
He added that the council will commission a survey to find out whether the structure of the pier is dangerous, but said it could not write a ‘blank cheque’.
Chairman of the group trying to buy the pier for the community, Leon Reis, said it would continue working in case the private buyer pulled out.
‘To hear someone wants to buy it is a very good thing for the pier’s future,’ he said.
‘But we are still confident we can raise enough money to make an offer and if this person doesn’t come good we will be there to pick up the pieces.’
The pier owners were not available to comment.