Brighton pier owners reject repairs but may hasten renovation

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The Independent Online

Renovation of Brighton's West Pier could be accelerated by the collapse that left its concert hall hanging precariously over the sea.

Renovation of Brighton's West Pier could be accelerated by the collapse that left its concert hall hanging precariously over the sea.

Despite fears that the concert hall will fall apart at high tide tomorrow, the pier's owners rejected making repairs and said plans for a £30m refurbishment of the Grade I listed structure remained viable. Ironically, they might be speeded by the storm damage.

A walkway connecting the concert hall and the pavilion collapsed on Sunday, provoking concern that the pier, built in 1866, would disintegrate. There was no further deterioration yesterday.

Geoff Lockwood, chief executive of the West Pier Trust, said engineers had been predicting the pier would collapse for months and it was pointless trying to make repairs. "The important thing is to get on with the restoration rather than waste more time and money trying to patch it up. This doesn't affect the plans and it doesn't affect the funding," he said.

The restoration scheme has been delayed by disagreements between the bodies involved, including the trust, English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, which first allocated £14m in 1988. The project is also opposed by owners of Brighton's working Palace Pier, who claim it is unfair competition to give lottery money to what they say is a commercial venture.

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said the damage was not serious. "The concert hall might go but it is likely any restoration would have to rebuild the concert hall anyway," he said.

Meanwhile, about 100 flood warnings were in place on rivers across England, mainly in the Midlands, after heavy rain brought water on to low-lying fields.The Environment Agency said today was expected to be dry, which would give rivers a chance to subside before tomorrow, when nearly an inch of rain is forecast in some places.

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