South Parade Pier Storm Damage 7/2/14

Update 9/2/14: The Pier has had another 48 hours of battering since this post, and Nick Moore (@backinpompey on Twitter) has tweeted some good pictures of the damage to the corner where the concrete deck has fallen away and the railings collapsed:

The weather forecast for the early part of next week isn’t now as bad as it was 48 hours ago.  It no longer looks as if there is another really deep low of the kind we have at present queuing up in the Atlantic.  However the forecast is still blustery and gusty all through the week.  Colas have put some scaffolding up, which clearly gives a message that “you shouldn’t be under here” – nothing is likely to prevent someone who’s determined to go underneath from doing so. 

Original blog continues below:

Inevitably given the current bad weather, South Parade Pier has taken a beating.  High winds are one thing, they knock the superstructure of it about, but combine that with high tides and storm surges, and the result can be severe structural damage to the “underside” of the Pier – i.e. the bits that hold everything else up.

In the past I’ve taken photos of damage to the “bull-nose” concrete deck edging, dislodged pipework, rusting girders, and lots of things that point to general dilapidation.  The result of these storms, however, is that substantial metalwork has been shifted out of place, and in some cases, washed away completely.

The beach is strewn with wood which has been washed away from the boat-deck at the end of the Pier.  That damage is regrettable, but it doesn’t affect the integrity of the main structure.  The photos I’m posting below are warnings that in fact the main structure might become unstable if the damage is left unrepaired or made worse by continuing bad weather.

I understand Portsmouth City Council are aware that the damage is now very severe, and at some point they will need to inspect it for themselves.  They ignored the warnings about the state of the Pier, dragged their heels in imposing sanctions on the owners, and now we are all left with this mess, and an ever-growing repair bill.  I did submit a Freedom of Information request to PCC before Christmas for details of meetings and correspondence they had in relation to the safety of the Pier.  I haven’t got round to writing a blog on the response, which was delayed well past the statutory 20 working-day deadline, but having read it I am comfortable in making the accusation of complacency and inaction.

If you want to read the documents they’ve supplied me, the pdf is available here.  There are 40 pages of it, and on the very first page there is a recommendation dated 17th October 2012 to serve a Building Act enforcement notice on the owners.  That was only done over a year later.  I’ll come back to the FoI request another time, and indeed I can see I’ll probably submit another one in the near future to follow up some points further.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so:

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You can click on any of these images to open a full-sized version.  They were taken with my phone, so are not exactly high art.

Bits of timber from the boat deck at the end of the Pier have washed up all along the beach, from the Hovercraft terminal down to the old ranges at Eastney.  The white bit of wood is from a bench.

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The sea has pushed a support beam right out of place.  It should run parallel to the two on the left of the picture, and you can see where it should be from the line of rust in the concrete deck that edged the top of the I section when it was in place.  You can also see the exposed metal reinforcement of the concrete deck has been exposed over time.  Water seeps into the concrete eventually, the metalwork rusts, expands, and cracks the concrete so that it falls away.  (That’s what did for the much-missed Tricorn)  This is one photo, in fact there are several such displaced beams under the Pier, especially on the eastern side.  The girder the support beams slot into has rusted away, and you can see daylight through it.

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Both these support beams have been dislodged, the left-hand one no longer sits on the beam it is supposed to connect to at all.

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The original beam has rusted through completely, one put in as reinforcement has been completely dislodged.

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Again, the beams should sit on the rather rusty member running across the picture, but have been smashed out of place.  It’s debatable how strong the older metalwork is.

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This isn’t the clearest photo, but the damage is severe, if not immediately obvious. The rusted steel running down the picture is I-section, and the concrete decking slots into it.  What has happened is that the steel has rusted away, the bottom of the I has fallen away in the top half of the photo, and you are left with a T-section which has nothing to support the concrete in place.  This is damage the council was aware of last year, and is referred to in the FoI request material.

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This damage to the bull-nose isn’t new, but if you do go looking at the Pier, please be aware that bits are hanging off and could do you an injury!  This is over an area of beach where the tide comes and goes and there is no way to fence it off.

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Bit of rope.  I’m never going to make an artsy photographer, I’ll leave that to the pros!

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You can see here that the steel members supporting the concrete deck have shifted to the right to varying extents.

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I don’t know whether the gas is still connected at the main – I hope not – but this flexible pipework would all have been exposed to the force of the storm.  It runs along the metalwork all the way from the basement of the front of the Pier out to the kitchens.

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See the newish-looking truss on the right running away from the rusted steelwork?  It should have a matching pair coming off the left-hand side running towards the edge of the picture.  There was one, but it’s been washed away completely.

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Same problem as the picture above, taken further along the Pier.  There should be a truss to match the one still in place on the left of the beam, but it’s been washed away.

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This beam has come away completely, and is hanging on at the left-hand end by one bolt.  If anyone was daft enough to swing on it – it’s dangling at a convenient head-height – the whole lot might fall on them.


There are lots of bits of dislodged metal from the Pier scattered on the beach.  This may be from one of the plates which fitted between beams running at right-angles.  I picked it up after I’d photographed it, and it snapped in half where it has rusted and become completely brittle.

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Judging from the debris lying around, the water gushed over into the stairwell leading to the disused public toilets and forced the door open.

Final two pics are from a member of the public who forwarded me them and has given me permission to use them:

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You can see the lattice-work and support for the decking has come away at the corner, and a portion of the concrete deck has simply fallen into the sea.

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If you look through the temporary fencing to the railings at the deck-edge, you’ll see some have come away with the deck section in the picture above.  The horizon is visible through the gap.

Storms always cause damage to structures like piers, the West Pier at Brighton has taken 30 years to reach the point now where it is about to vanish.  But South Parade Pier is nearing a point of no-return itself.  There has been no rolling programme of maintenance for many years, and the faults are building up.  Damage to the structure means that the concrete deck itself is in danger of falling into the sea piece-by-piece.  It is vital that the Pier is bought by the South Parade Trust as soon as possible, so that something can be done to stabilise the structure.  I hope you’ll support the Trust if you don’t already.  I am sure the Trust will be inspecting the Pier themselves at some point, and having the benefit of engineering advice will be able to shed further light on the situation.

There is another storm due to arrive this weekend, and the forecast for around Tuesday next week is that yet another one is queued up behind it, when the tides will again be on their way back to a peak.  Let’s hope that the Pier is able to withstand those storms without much further damage.  The pictures above are the result of cumulative damage since Christmas – I hadn’t been under it myself since then to look at it – but every wave that reaches loosening metalwork is going to do more damage from here onwards.

And just to make sure the “embed Youtube” function is working, here’s a quick video from my phone taken 9/2/14.  The shakiness of the footage is down to the wind; I haven’t got delerium tremens!

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16 Responses to South Parade Pier Storm Damage 7/2/14

  1. Si Bunting says:

    Great article. Sad to see the damage, hope things move quickly with the purchase before it’s too late.

  2. Team Locals says:

    Shocking. Fingers crossed something will get done to save the structure once and for all. Genuinely worried for its general survival amidst the storms. Especially the severe conditions fast approaching in the coming days.

  3. steve Courtney says:

    Very interesting report. Great pictures aswell. Lets hope the old girl stands strong in the oncoming storm.

  4. Bernard Chive says:

    The Trust hasn’t got a penny and wants to waste the little they’ve raised so far on antiquated marketing campaigns! Only innovation and vast amounts of cash can save her now, but sadly there just seems to be nostalgic intentions and a business plan that relies on hundreds of thousands of pounds in bailouts.

    I wont be popular for saying this, but it might not be such a bad thing if she did sink in the coming week. If the city really needs a tourist attraction in the middle of, what’s now a residential area with inadequate parking, it would probably be cheaper to build a new one!

    Times change, sea levels rise, weather conditions are worsening, kids have arcades in the palm of their hands and Gunwharf is our new coastal tourist attraction.

    I’ve have many a happy memory of the old girl and wish those intent on restoring her nothing but the best of luck.

    But its not a sound or sustainable venture in my mind and for that reason, I’m out.


    • Stuart Crow says:

      I don’t speak for the SPT, though having supported the Pompey Supporters’ Trust since its inception, I can say we used to hear all the same things about “how we’d never buy the football club”. If there’s a stumbling block, it is likely to be because the present owner thinks the Pier is worth more than it is. Given the current state of it, and the fact it is a clear danger to the public, perhaps the current owners will revise their views.

      Edit: I’ve had a bit of a Google and found this:

      It would have cost £4m to demolish Hastings Pier, which is of comparable size, and the taxpayer would have to foot the bill. Let’s say it costs £5m to refurbish SPP (which is a figure I’ve heard mentioned), most of that will be raised in grants (National Lottery etc). So in fact refurbishment, job-creation, and revitalisation of the seafront is a far better bet for the taxpayer than demolition, or indeed letting it slowly collapse.

      • Bernard Chive says:

        18,000 people attend the football club every fortnight, it will always have massive income potential. I doubt the pier has seen 18,000 visitors in a single year for a very long time.

        I genuinely do wish the SPT the very best of luck. If they can find a way to make her interesting enough to bring back the customers and obtain the millions to restore and modernise her, I’ll be delighted.


        • Si Bunting says:

          I’m not sure of the capacity of the Gaiety Suite or Albert Tavern but at times they were regularly sold out weekend after weekend.

          Considering people would spend at least twice as long at say Chaos or Contact then they would at a football match, I would have thought there was potential for greater income than from Fratton Park if you are looking at footfall and visitor spending.

          • Stuart Crow says:

            That’s a great point, but I think some of the residents nearby might be against restarting late club nights on the Pier. I think they should come back, but I think it’s something we’ll have to make the case for.

  5. Bryn Williams says:

    Pull it down, sell it for scrap and donate the money to a children’s charity, and how about removing all those pebbles and replacing them with sand to make it look like a proper beach

    • Stuart Crow says:

      Well, the scrap value of a load of old iron isn’t going to be all that great, and demolishing it properly would cost a fair bit too. I doubt you’d make anything doing that. It would be better for the kids if there was a properly-run attraction there.

      As for sand, the pebbles on the beach protect it from being swept away by the tide. If it was just sand, you’d have huge problems with erosion quite quickly. There’s plenty of sand when the tide’s low!

    • Hafsa Garcia says:

      Bryn it IS a proper beach!! not all beaches have to have you know! I love the shingle, doesn’t get into everything and the pebbles and shells are really interesting to look at, each one is different. Also as Stuart pointed out the sand would be eroded and we’d be left with not much beach at all! As for selling it for scrap, not sure the money you’d make would cover the cost of pulling it down… I really hope we can get the pier up and running again, it has so much potential! We could have boat rides and open-air activities in the summer such as picnics, fishing, outdoor bands and dances, (and I used to LOVE that huge bouncy castle!) while indoors I would love to see a small cinema or bowling, events could be held there e.g. exhibitions, events to raise awareness about sea level rise (maybe could get involved?), something to make it different from Clarence Pier though. I’m sure it would be popular, not everyone wants to go to Gunwharf every time!

      • Hafsa Garcia says:

        Also the fish and chip shop is great, i hope it stays too

      • Si Bunting says:

        An alternative to Gunwharf is exactly what the pier and that area of the seafront should be in my opinion. Restaurants, bars, cafes. Southsea seafront could be as vibrant as Brighton.

        Such a shame about the the buildings opposite the pier as well, Stuart have you posted anything on the politics around them sitting empty for so long? Heard rumours, but not sure of facts.

  6. Si Bunting says:

    Sorry, off topic but just a thought. Have you considered Facebook or Disqus comments? It would be helpful to be able to like or flag up/down comments.

    • Stuart Crow says:

      It seems neither Disqus or Intensedebate are compatible with the latest version of WP at the moment. I’ll keep an eye on it and add Disqus when it’s been fixed. I installed it anyway but it dumped all the existing comments rather than importing them.

      • Si Bunting says:

        Well that’s saved me some work, cheers! 🙂

        Setting up a new blog in the next week or so (events focussed, to support our site). Used WP a lot in the past but not for a few years, was going to go with Disqus, prob go with Facebook (at the risk of alienating some people) or see if there’s anything around that combines Facebook and WP comments.

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