5 March 2016
The history of Colwyn Bay’s Grade II listed pier, which opened in 1900, was covered in more detail in a previous article from five years ago. In the meantime, the historic structure has continued to rot away as the legal wrangling over its ownership has continued and Conwy council has shown little commitment to its preservation and ultimately declared its intention to demolish the pier. The major events in the story to date are summarised in the timeline below.
1899-1900 Pier is built to design by architects Maynall & Littlewood.
1920s Colwyn Bay Urban District Council buys the pier from the original owners the Victoria Pier Company.
1950s The popularity of the pier and its entertainments are in decline.
1960s The local council sells the pier to a Trust House Forte subsidiary.
1970s The pier pavilion, branded as The Dixieland Showbar, is a popular music-concert venue. Parkers Leisure purchases the pier.
1991 The pier closes and subsequently suffers from vandalism and arson.
1994 Mike Paxman buys the pier and undertakes some restoration work.
2003 Steve Hunt buys the pier and undertakes some repairs. The entrance buildings and part of the promenade open with the pavilion being used for special events.
2008 The pier closes when Hunt is declared bankrupt over a dispute with Conwy County Borough Council over business rates and council tax. The pier passes to a bankruptcy trustee.
2011 Estimated costs for a ‘basic renovation’ and demolition are £3.5 million and £1 million, respectively. Conwy council votes to purchase the pier. The trustee ‘disclaims his interest’ in the pier in order to avoid any future liability after part of it fell off onto a public thoroughfare. The pier then passes to the Crown Estate.
2012 In March Conwy council buys the pier for £36,000 using a grant from the Welsh Assembly Government. Ownership is disputed by Hunt, saying that it should have reverted to himself three years after the bankruptcy. In April Mold County Court rules that ownership should be determined at a later hearing. The Heritage Lottery Fund rejects the council’s bid for a £4.9 million grant to restore the structure. In August Cardiff County Court rejects Hunt’s claim of ownership.
2013 In April the High Court in London reserves judgement on Hunt’s appeal against the outcome of Cardiff County Court’s decision. In May the Heritage Lottery Fund awards almost £600,000 to Conwy council to develop restoration plans. With estimated costs of over £15 million to restore the pier, the council votes in December to de-list and demolish it.
2014 Conwy council returns the Heritage Lottery Fund grant in February.
2015 In January the council decides to await the decision of the Heritage Lottery Fund in respect of campaign group Colwyn Victoria Pier Trust’s £9.6 million bid for funding. The campaign group meets with the Heritage Lottery Fund in February. In May the Lottery grant application is rejected on the grounds that given the lack of support from Conwy council the project was deemed to have too high a risk. The council proceeds with its application for listed building consent to demolish the pier. In October, however, the Welsh Assembly Government rejects the council’s demolition request. The High Court rules that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to return the pier to Hunt, who then lodges an appeal against the decision.
2016 Conwy council starts work in January on a second application for consent to demolish Victoria Pier. Estimated costs for demolition are between £1m and £2m.