Weston-super-Mare pier fire: Alarm company ordered to pay £30million to Grand Pier owners for 'high degree of negligence'

 

The owners of the Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare which was destroyed in a devastating blaze four years ago claimed a “victory for the truth” today after a judge ordered an alarm company to pay them £30m in damages.

Brother and sister Kerry and Michelle Michael conceded they were unlikely ever to receive the money from System 2 Security after it was placed into administration just three days before a hearing at Bristol Mercantile Court.

Judge Mark Havelock-Allan found a “high degree of negligence” against the company which was accused of failing to respond to the early morning fire alarms which first sounded at 1.35am at the North Somerset resort on 28 July 2008.

Emergency services however were not summoned to the blaze until 7am when it was spotted by a member of the public resulting in the virtual destruction of the Grade II listed building.

Mr Michael, who had only owned the building for five months, said he had spent hundreds of thousands pounds on the legal action after seeking to quash “rumours and innuendo” in the wake of the blaze.

“It is a victory in so much as we have got to the truth. In monetary terms it is not a victory because they took it to the wire. We lost a Grade II listed building. It was important to us to have our day in court as to who was to blame,” he said.

“We will continue to pursue the company, its directors, insurers and anyone else that provided advice to System 2 Security before or since the fire,” he added.

The judge found “no contributory negligence” on behalf of the Michaels’ company, Grand Pier Ltd, and awarded an immediate payment of £30m plus interest.

The Michaels have since undertaken a £51m redevelopment of the site, which reopened in October 2010 and now welcomes 3.5m visitors a year.

An investigation by firefighters was unable to pin point the exact cause of the fire blaming it on an electrical fault. Smoke could be seen from the wooden structure up to 10 miles away.

Mr Michael, who previously ran insurance and property businesses before buying the Edwardian pier, said he and his sister had been devastated by the blaze which claimed one of the British seaside’s most cherished landmarks. “It was a surreal time. It was like we were on the outside looking in on someone else’s nightmare.

“Irrespective of how it happened I felt responsible because it happened on my watch. This magnificent structure had stood for 100 years and I had been there for five minutes and it had burnt down. My immediate reaction was to rebuild it.”

Mr Michael said the pier had been rebuilt in concrete and steel and was staffed 24 hours every day. “It is as safe a building as any in the UK,” he said.

A claim against sub-contractors Essex-based Yeoman Monitoring Services was settled privately, with no admission of liability, earlier this year.

David Cogle, the former director of System 2 Security, told the BBC his company had paid more than £100,000 in legal costs. “What it would have cost to fight it would have finished the company off. It was just as easy to retire and let them have judgement,“ he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
books
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
Sport
sport
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine