There is “little chance” of Withernsea’s Pier Project ever becoming a reality, the organisation behind it has said, as it announced it was being wound up due to a host of funding and logistical complications.
The Withernsea Pier and Promenade Association, which was founded in 2016 with an aim to rebuild the pier in the town, said it was now back to “square one” after seven years of volunteers “putting their heart and souls” into the plans.
The WPPA said steel piling that had been purchased for the project has been sold, and other assets will be sold off so they can repay loans and pay back funders and creditors.
However, bucket collections, membership fees and income from fundraising events has already been spent on the planning stage of the project and cannot be repaid, it said – but all grants, donations and gifts specifically made for the construction phase of the pier will be refunded.
A statement said: “Several thousand hours of volunteer work has gone into completing public consultations and environmental reports, obtaining the marine license and the planning permission. Putting on dozens of fundraising events and applying for grants and donations.
“In March 2021, after five years of work, we were so close to building the first stage of the pier. At that time the first stage was fully funded and we had contractors ready to start the work.”
However, the WPPA claimed, only three weeks before construction was due to start, East Riding Council produced a list of further questions and queries about the plans that delayed the construction start by a year.
This, according to the WPPA, cost £7,000 extra in architects’ fees to make what it called “largely insignificant changes” to the design, and another £7,000 to complete a detailed piling design despite the WPPA telling the council this was priced into the piling contract.
The statement continued: “Having completed all the extra work required by the council, we were again ready to start construction in May 2022.
“The construction steel was ready, the contractors were ready, and we had the plant on site to start removing the rock armour. As the planning approval ran out on May 10, we had to make a start by removing some of the rock armour. Again, East Riding Council stopped us as they would not give us landlord consent to start the construction.
“Over the winter we looked for more funding and ways to reduce the ever-increasing construction costs. Although there has been no new funding, we have found a way to simplify the design without affecting the overall appearance or safety of the structure. When we recently submitted an amendment to the plans, East Riding planning department informed us that despite us starting to remove the rock armour last year, that was not a start, and consequently the planning permission has now expired. As the project no longer has planning permission, we no longer fulfil the terms of the funding, and our two main funders will no longer fund the project.
“We have been working on this for seven years, put our hearts and souls into the project, and are now back to square one. We no longer have the funds to proceed, and the board and steering group members are fatigued by the endless battle with the council. It is therefore with great sadness that we have to admit that rebuilding the Withernsea pier is no longer a viable option.”
The WPPA highlighted one of its “success stories”, which was the reopening of the now floodlit Pier Towers, saying it would be sad if the towers again fall into “darkness and disrepair”, and urged anyone interested in taking over the running of the towers to get in touch.
The WPPA added: “We would like to thank the businesses, shops and residents of Withernsea that have supported us and helped us get as far as we did. We would also like to thank Withernsea Big Local, East Coast Communities Fund, Yorkshire Coast BID, HERCT, Withernsea Town Council and the other funders who believed that this was a worthwhile project to invest in. Thank you to Ruby Reds and all the other entertainers and musicians that have performed at our events, often completely free of charge. Finally, thank you to all the people who have given their time to support and promote the project and those who have served as steering group members and directors over the past seven years.”
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A spokesman for East Riding Council said: “We are very disappointed to hear that the WPPA is unable to proceed with the pier development at Withernsea and would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the significant efforts and dedication of the parties involved in the project.
“The council has had a number of responsibilities in connection with the project, including as landowner, shoreline environment manager, planning authority as well as economic development promoter and in all of these areas we have worked hard to advise and support the WPPA with their project.”