Plans to breathe new life into Weston-super-Mare’s dilapidated Birnbeck Pier have taken a step forward.
A team of architects and engineers have now been appointed by North Somerset Council to draw up plans for the revival of the Grade II* listed pier and island.
The pier has been left in a state of disrepair for years. Opening in 1867, it was designed by noted Victorian engineer Eugenius Birch and is on Historic England’s national Heritage at Risk Register.
The authority purchased the pier in July from its previous owner CNM Estates after years of trying to get the landmark into its ownership.
A North Somerset Council spokesperson said: “The team is in place to be able to develop detailed plans for bringing it back into operation and once again become an integral part of life in Weston-super-Mare.
“It is a very large and technically complicated project so will take several years to complete in various stages, but progress can now begin to gather pace.”
The restoration will first focus on urgent repairs to the structure and the landward side buildings.
This work is due to be carried out in 2024 and 2025 and be funded by Government levelling up funding cash.
Repairs to the legs of the pier structure and the partial restoration of the deck to create a safe access onto Birnbeck Island will also take place.
Funding will come from grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Historic England, and is being led by the RNLI.
It is hoped that this work will begin in 2025, subject to surveys, design work and the relevant permissions.
Alongside this, the RNLI will begin work to finalise designs for the building of its new lifeboat station, training facility and operational buildings on Birnbeck Island.
The lifeboat service, which was based on the landmark for 131 years, was forced to move off the island in 2013 after concerns for the crew's health and safety because of the dilapidated state of the structure.
It now operates from a temporary base at Knightstone Island. A later part of the project will see the other buildings and structures on the island restored and the site more fully opened to the public.
This later work will be part-funded by a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which is currently supporting the development phase of the works.
The spokesperson added: “We’ll be applying for a grant of £4.2m for the next phase of the project shortly. If secured, works are expected to take place in 2026 and 2027.”
It is hoped that once complete, the site will be managed by Birnbeck Regeneration Trust in the same way that a community-led charity has rebuilt and runs Clevedon Pier, which is also owned by North Somerset Council.
A visitor hub has now been set up on the promenade by the pier where people can meet volunteers from Birnbeck Regeneration Trust to discuss the project.