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Cromer pier faces big repair bill

PUBLISHED: 15:38 15 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:11 13 July 2010

Iconic Cromer pier is facing a £1.4m repair bill to mend its rotting, bent and battered metal struts and wooden decking.

But tens of thousands of showgoers and strollers heading to the north Norfolk landmark have been assured it will be “business as usual” during two summers of major works.

Iconic Cromer pier is facing a £1.4m repair bill to mend its rotting, bent and battered metal struts and wooden decking.

But tens of thousands of showgoers and strollers heading to the north Norfolk landmark have been assured it will be “business as usual” during two summers of major works.

Coastal engineers and pier operators this week began a series of meetings aimed at minimising disruption during work due to start next year.

Work needs to happen in the summertime because safety and quality will be better - but requires close liaison between the pier operators Openwide International and contractors over timings to avoid high season and showtimes.

Grinding, cleaning and welding generators would create noise, but it hoped to restrict it to mornings, so matinees were not affected, said Openwide's pier manager Ian Hall.

It would be “business as usual” at the venue, where 88,000 last year attended shows, and countless more walked the boards , dropped in for drinks, and went fishing.

The venue also had to ensure access and fire doors were kept clear, and recently had a good rehearsal for handling such changes during emergency storm damage repairs to decking.

Peter Frew, head of coastal strategy for pier owners North Norfolk District Council, said the pier was an iconic part of the whole district's tourism economy and needed regular maintenance.

Previous repairs done in winter had not lasted as long as hoped because of the difficult in working in harsh conditions, so the work was being targeted at summer - meaning it should last 20 years instead of 10.

While there was a lot of the original 107-year-old Victorian pier left, including the cast iron legs piled into the clay seabed, much of the smaller bracing was in poor condition - rusted, missing or bent through daily attack from salt water and wind.

“It is not unsafe at this stage, but we need to do something,” said Mr Frew, whose report recommending the pier works will be debated by the district cabinet on Monday.

A stark set of options predict that doing nothing to popular tourist attraction would see it in its death throes in a decade, and the council facing a £700,000 demolition bill. But his report to the council cabinet rules that out as “not a viable option”.

At the other end of the scale a full rebuild - which would cost more than £8m and require complete closure including the theatre and lifeboat station - is also said to be “expensive and unnecessary.”

The favoured package will replace and stiffen ironwork which has corroded, distorted or been ripped off by storms.

Decking, including bearers which are in such poor condition they cannot take securing screws, will be replaced.

And the whole pier will be cleaned with grit blasting or high pressure jetting.

Protective paint will be put on the metal work, but the report points out that a similar operation in the mid 1990s - not long after it was cut in half by the runway Tayjack rig - had made things worse, by painting over rust.

However, it adds that it was “almost unavoidable when working in such a hostile environment” during the winter.

Because no grants were available to help offset the cost, the project would be paid for from the council reserves, the report adds. It would however lead to a loss of investment income of £16,000 in the first year, £48,000 in the second and £64,000 a year thereafter.

It is also being suggested the council keeps a closer eye on the pier structure with annual inspections costing £58,000 and a more detailed £76,000 examination every four years.


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