A GOVERNMENT minister believes a group of community campaigners seeking to save South Parade Pier are potentially best placed to take it over.
Planning minister Nick Boles has said Portsmouth City Council should consider using powers that would allow South Parade Trust to seize control of the site.
A compulsory purchase order (CPO) could be activated whereby the council takes the pier from its current owners if they don’t make repairs, and then hand it to the trust.
Mr Boles said that was done by Hastings Borough Council to enable a community takeover of Hastings Pier – and could be copied in Portsmouth.
During a visit to the derelict venue yesterday, Mr Boles said: ‘We need to make sure the council is aware of the legal position and powers it has got.
‘One of the things we have done is give councils more power, and they don’t necessarily know all the things they can do.
‘It’s important they know CPOs can work and that the city council could potentially take a leaf out of Hastings’ book.’
Mr Boles said it would be a ‘crying shame’ to lose the pier and action needed to be taken to restore it.
‘These things tend to need a lot of money and there are pots of money out there through organisations like the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the trust has a very good chance of putting in a successful bid,’ he said.
But Mr Boles said the council would need to scrutinise the trust’s business plan and be confident it had enough funds before entering into any agreement.
Trust chairman Leon Reis said he was encouraged by Mr Boles’ visit and hoped the council will listen.
Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate Flick Drummond, who arranged Mr Boles’ visit, said: ‘The trust is made up of amazing people who have worked very hard in the last two years.’
A consortium of business owners is interested in taking over the pier but has yet to sign any contracts.
Council leader Donna Jones, said she wants to work with all parties involved.
‘We need to keep involved with all interested parties to ensure the regeneration of South Parade Pier and ensure it doesn’t deteriorate any further,’ she said.
Council praised over base bid
PLANNING minister Nick Boles has praised Portsmouth City Council for its haste in making sure work could get under way on Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup base in Old Portsmouth.
Mr Boles visited the site at the Camber Dock where the Olympian’s training headquarters is set to be based.
It comes after the government this week announced it will contribute £7.5m towards the base, which is expected to be built by May next year.
Mr Boles said: ‘I am delighted that the government has made the investment,
‘The thing I am really amazed by is how quickly the council acted.
‘Everybody always complains councils don’t get their act together.
‘This is an excellent example of a council grabbing something by the scruff of the neck and making things happen.’
Plans for the base first came to light in April and Portsmouth City Council awarded it planning permission two months later.
Firms based at the Camber were moved out and awarded £700,000 in compensation, and Johnson’s fish market has been demolished in order to make way for the base. The business has moved to the north of the city.
The council said it had to move businesses out quickly in order to enter into a lease deal with Ben Ainslie Racing.