'We all knew it was arson': 20 years on from fire that devastated Brighton's West Pier

  • ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw looks at how the fire impacted so many in Brighton

It was twenty years ago when people in Brighton watched as a fire engulfed the city's derelict West Pier.

Rachel Clark, the Chief Executive of West Pier Trust, remembers that day.

She said: "I remember standing on the beach with lots of lots of other people - and we were all stunned. No one could believe it.

"We all knew it was arson."

Nobody has ever been held responsible for the suspected arson attack, which also dashed hopes that the pier would be restored to its former glory.

Brighton's West Pier as it looks today. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Ms Clark added: "We were on the brink of starting the full restoration of the West Pier, the finest pier that was ever built by a long way, but it was also going to be a wonderful new attraction and it would've made Brighton extra unique."

"It was a huge loss to everyone, every resident of Brighton."

The West Pier first opened in 1866, and at the height of its appeal, some 2 million people paid to visit in 1919.

The West Pier Trust which owns its remnants, is now focused on restoring a kiosk saved in the 90s.

It is also exploring the creation of a new contemporary West Pier for Brighton, and says it will oversee 'proposals and ideas for a financially viable new structure', and oversee a 'consultation with the people of Brighton on plans for the future'.