Pier hopes dashed as Lottery withdraws £14m restoration fund

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The Independent Online

A "miracle" is needed to save Brighton's collapsing West Pier after the National Lottery withdrew £14m of funding for repairs yesterday, according to the local authority.

The Heritage Lottery Fund announced it was withdrawing backing for a scheme agreed six years ago to turn the listed Victorian landmark into a tourist attraction.

The pier has been collapsing into the sea since its closure 29 years ago. A series of storms and mysterious fires have hastened its demise. The pier's owners, the Brighton West Pier Trust, recently informed the Heritage Lottery Fund that the amount of funding required to restore the attraction had increased to £19.6m.

Liz Forgan, chairwoman of the fund, said the organisation regretted no longer being able to release money for the pier restoration project. She said: "We understand how disappointing this news must be for many people, and in particular for the Brighton West Pier Trust, who have fought a valiant fight over the years to save this historic structure.

"However, there is no guarantee that costs won't continue to escalate and the trust has made it clear that they have no other funding options but the Heritage Lottery Fund. This means that the risks and costs involved in this project are now just too big for us to bear."

While the trust described its "shock and anger" at the decision, it refused to speculate on the future options for the beleaguered attraction. It estimated that the demolition of the pier would cost more than £2m and would require a reduction of its current Grade I listed status.

Geoff Lockwood, chairman of West Pier Trust, said: "We are not conceding yet. We will be seeking a further round of talks with the council and English Heritage before anything else is done."

Brighton and Hove Council said a "miracle" would now be required to restore the pier. Ken Bodfish, the council leader, said: "It's incredibly disappointing. Short of a miracle this looks like the end of the pier. If so, it's a sad day for the city and the people who have dedicated so much of their lives to getting the pier restored."

The West Pier was opened in 1866 and attracted more than 5,000 people a day to its concert hall during the 1920s.