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EDITIONS
 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 06:25 GMT
Fears for Brighton pier after collapse
West Pier
A walkway collapsed into the sea
Safety officials are concerned that more of Brighton's historic West Pier will collapse, after a large middle section fell into the sea.

A temporary walkway connecting the concert hall and the pavilion completely collapsed at about 0920 GMT on Sunday, bringing some original struts down with it.

Experts were concerned that high tides on Sunday evening could spell more trouble, although the pier appears to have survived the night unscathed.

But further wave action and high winds means more damage is possible.

The pier's owners said the collapse would not affect plans for a 30m renovation - partly funded by the national lottery - of the Victorian structure.

West Pier
Wood was salvaged from the beach
Geoff Lockwood, chief executive of the West Pier Trust, said: "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 and I don't think it will affect our finances that much.

"It is sad to see the old lady damaged in a way, but in terms of the restoration plans it is not crucial."

Mr Lockwood said the collapse was not due to any particular bad weather, but more a result of "slow erosion" of the structure over many years.

He added that the collapse had left part of the concert hall hanging precariously at a 30-degree angle towards the sea.

Souvenir hunters

The pier, built in 1866, had been left to decay since 1975 - when it was closed to the public because of fears it may collapse.

Hundreds of members of the public visited the beach on Sunday, attempting to take away planks and other debris.

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove Council said it was not thought that anything of real value had fallen into the water.

People carrying debris away
Some of the debris has been taken away
However, he added that an area around the structure had been cordoned off and officers were discouraging souvenir hunters because of health and safety issues.

Solent Coastguard put a unit near the pier to warn passing boats of debris and planks in the water.

The West Pier is one of two piers at Brighton - the other is the Palace Pier which is open to the public.

The West Pier Trust has spent about 1.5m strengthening the pier in preparation for restoration work.

The main restoration had been scheduled to start in summer 2003 and was due for completion in 2005.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's John Young
"It did survive the night"
  Jonathan Orrell, Consultant Engineer
"The southern part of the main middle building... was gradually subsiding"

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29 Dec 02 | England
31 May 00 | UK
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