|Date||11 June 2011|
|Location||Colwyn Bay, Conwy||SH 85229 79130; 53.29664°N, 3.72349°W|
Currently derelict and in the hands of bankruptcy trustees, Victoria Pier in Colwyn Bay is a Grade II listed structure and was designed by architects Maynall & Littlewood and built in 1899-1900. Its construction was of cast-iron screw piles, steel girders and wooden decking.
The late Victorian pleasure pier has had a somewhat chequered history. It originally comprised a promenade deck and a 2,500-seat pavilion, with a 600-seat theatre being added later. The pavilion has been rebuilt twice following fires, with the present one opening in 1934. The smaller theatre also fell victim to a separate fire.
In the 1920s, Colwyn Bay Urban District Council bought the pier from the original owners, The Victoria Pier Company, which was in financial straits at the time. The popularity of the pier and its entertainments began to wane in the 1950s and in the late 1960s the council sold it to a subsidiary of Trust House Forte. In the 1970s the pavilion — having been converted into ‘The Dixieland Showbar’ — was a popular venue for music concerts. At the end of the decade Parkers Leisure bought the pier and ran its facilities until 1991, after which time the pier and its buildings suffered from vandalism and arson.
Then Mike Paxman bought the pier in 1994 and undertook some restoration work and alterations, later selling it to Steve Hunt in 2003. Hunt then embarked upon a programme of restoration, during which time the entrance buildings and a section of the promenade were opened, with the pavilion being used for special events.
However, the pier again closed in 2008, when Mr Hunt was declared bankrupt as a result of a long-running dispute with Conwy County Borough Council over business rates and council tax. In his web site, Mr Hunt makes various accusations against the council and provides a detailed catalogue of events surrounding the affair supported by documents obtained from the council in requests made under the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act — which were only made available to him after the council obtained the bankruptcy ruling.
On 7 June Mr Hunt started a hunger strike in protest of the council’s actions, calling for an official public inquiry into the matter. On 10 June, he met with Clwyd West MP and Welsh Office Minister David Jones for discussions. He then suspended the hunger strike to collate his evidence to present to the appropriate authorities.
Meanwhile, with estimated costs of £3.5m for ‘basic renovation’ and £1m for demolition, the council had been deliberating its options with regards to the pier’s future. With around half of the councillors present at a special meeting, held in private, they voted on 8 June to purchase the pier from the trustees, with only one councillor voting against. As a public body, the council will assume liability for the pier’s restoration, even if external funding cannot be secured. If no buyer had come forward, the pier would have reverted to Mr Hunt next month.
Victoria Pier and Pavilion (Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales);