Birnbeck Pier in Weston-super-Mare could be taken out of private ownership and handed to the RNLI.

The Grade II listed pier has been falling into the sea following years of decline and North Somerset Council encouraged the owner to make repairs in September 2019 by serving a repairs notice.

The local authority will launch a Compulsory Purchase Order in July in a process that could take 18 months to complete until confirmation is received from the Secretary of State.

The RNLI wants to build a lifeboat station on the Island. Credit: ITV News

We have given the owner many opportunities over the years to undertake the necessary repairs needed to preserve the pier, without success, even starting legal action to CPO the site as a last resort. This is a fantastic result following a great deal of work from council officers, Historic England and the RNLI.

Don Davies, Leader of North Somerset Council
Rusting metal and flaky paint on ornate Victorian ironwork pillars that adorn the side of the East Pavilion. Credit: PA

Birnbeck is unique because it is the only pier in the country to connect the mainland to an island.

It was built between 1862 and 1867 and moved onto Historic England’s national at-risk register in 1999 after closing to the public five years earlier.

In late 2019, the RNLI began initial conversations with the council and Historic England on the possibility of the charity moving back to the Island and a transfer of ownership.

The pier has been on Historic England’s national at-risk register since 1999. Credit: ITV News

Weston-super-Mare is a very important search and rescue base for the RNLI but is also a very complex area in which to build a lifeboat station. Birnbeck Island offers the best solution for the safe and most effective launch and recovery for the volunteer lifeboat crew at all states of the tide. The move will be a significant investment for the charity and the future of lifesaving in Weston-super-Mare. Although there are a number of challenges to overcome still, the RNLI are delighted to be part of the journey to bring it back to its former glory.

Duncan Macpherson, RNLI Principal Estate Manager
The old turnstyle entrance to the North Jetty, which is now condemned and highly dangerous. Credit: PA

During the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries the pier was popular with locals and tourists as a boarding point for steamers plying their trade in the Bristol Channel.

During the Second World War the pier was used by the navy for research into new weapons and, although it later reopened for excursions, visitor and steamer passenger numbers steadily declined.

North Somerset Council’s concern about the deterioration of the pier resulted in a repairs notice being issued to the private owner in September 2019. Credit: PA

Don Davies, leader of the council, added: “Clearly there is a lot of work to do to restore the pier and re-establish the lifeboat station back to its original home. We would like to thank Historic England for their ongoing support... and look forward to seeing this historic structure reopened to the public, as well as providing vital lifesaving to North Somerset.”

Credit: ITV News