SOUTH Parade Pier has been given a coveted national award, a year after its reopening.
The Southsea attraction was named Pier of the Year by the National Piers Society, and was praised for being ‘beautifully back from the brink.’
The 110-year-old pier opened its doors last April after being closed for five years.
Speaking about the award, society president Gavin Henderson CBE said: ‘Southsea’s South Parade Pier is so beautifully back from the brink and fully deserves to be heralded as “Pier of the Year”.’
Felixstowe was voted in second place, with Worthing coming in third.
Tommy Ware Snr, speaking on behalf of the pier owners, said the award was ‘truly wonderful’.
He added: ‘I don’t quite know what to say. It has been a hard slog to get this far but we are delighted to have the efforts of everyone of the pier team recognised with this superb award.
‘Thank you all so much.’
The Victorian pier originally opened on August 12, 1908, and was wide enough to allow 1,200 seats split between the stalls and a triple-sided balcony.
But it was closed down in 2012 after Portsmouth City Council deemed it a public danger and at risk of collapse.
Two years later it was sold to a private buyer, Tommy Ware & Associates, who invested in the pier to strengthen the structure and restore the existing building.
Now fully reopened, the pier has a new family entertainment centre, a completely restyled Gaiety Bar offering live music and other events, and a variety of restaurants.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Liberal Democrats group in Portsmouth, congratulated the pier’s team on their success.
He said: ‘My congratulations to Tommy Ware, Bob Pettett and all the team on the great work to bring South Parade Pier back into life again.
‘Tommy has shown that with good business sense, hard work and real long term investments, a derelict pier can be made to thrive again.
‘Everyone in Southsea will be grateful to Tommy that he brought our pier back to life.’
Cllr Donna Jones said: ‘I am so pleased that Tommy Ware and his business partners have been recognised for the outstanding job they have done in saving South Parade Pier. The Pier was in a poor state of repair and a significant amount of money has been spent restoring it. I have walked around the pier in many occasions with the owners and discussed the various stages of the project. I was delighted we were able to support them financially by securing a grant from the Coastal Communities Fund in 2015 as well as allocating additional funding in 2017 from the council’s CIL monies. This is fantastic tourist attraction and a well-loved part of the seafront.’
The National Piers Society, founded in 1979, aims to promote and sustain interest in the UK’s piers.