After years of decline, a historic Victorian pier is to be renovated and will have a new owner.
The RNLI is returning to Weston-super-Mare’s Birnbeck Pier as part of a deal with North Somerset Council to safeguard the landmark’s future.
Owner CNM Estates has agreed to sell the derelict Grade II listed-pier to the council and renovation work will be carried out to transform the landmark.
The programme of works will be carried out over several years and will be funded by the council, RNLI, Historic England and from other grants.
The pier, which was designed by engineer Eugenius Birch and built between 1862 and 1867, is unique as it is the only pier in the UK to connect the mainland to an island.
The privately-owned pier has continued to deteriorate over many years, moving onto Historic England’s national at-risk register in 1999.
Mark Canniford, the council’s executive member for placemaking and economy, said: “Thanks to the huge amount of work behind the scenes, we have finally reached this significant milestone and taken a massive step towards restoring Birnbeck.
“The private owner has agreed to sell the pier to the council, and we are keen to acquire Birnbeck as soon as possible.
“I am delighted that we have been able to avoid the compulsory purchase order process, which would have been overly complex and time-consuming.
“Together with the RNLI and Historic England, we have found a solution that will allow us to renovate this stunning piece of Victorian architecture, bring the RNLI back to their original home, and welcome the public onto the pier again.
“There’s a great deal of work to do but this is the start of us finally able to begin plans to restore this treasured site.”
Birnbeck Pier is one of only six Grade II piers surviving in the country. There are four further Grade II structures and buildings located on the island and the landward end of the site.
The RNLI has had a presence on Birnbeck Island since 1882 but was forced to leave the island in 2014 due to the deterioration of the pier, which had become unsafe.
Bristol Channel has an extreme tidal range and at low tide the large mudflats that surround Weston are exposed, making the launch and recovery of a lifeboat difficult.
Birnbeck Island is surrounded by water at lower tide which improves the opportunity to launch and recover lifeboats.