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Last Updated: Monday, 17 October 2005, 20:03 GMT 21:03 UK
Pier gloom for town's next season
Southend Pier's charred timbers
Southend Pier may not be fully repaired for the summer season
A holiday resort's landmark pier where fire damage is going to cost millions to repair may not be open in time for next year's summer season.

Southend Pier is one of the town's biggest draws for visitors and delays in its restoration could have an effect on the Essex town's tourist industry.

But during a vist on Monday local MP James Dudderidge said there was no point simply patching things up.

Investigating authorities said it seemed likely the fire was an accident.

For miles, the tide-line along the county's coast is black with charred wreckage and debris is still being washed up along the shore.

There is no point in reacting to things ad hoc and just simply patching things up
MP James Dudderidge
Southend Pier is the longest leisure pier in the world. In the fire, which broke out last Sunday night a pub, a railway station and other buildings at the seaward end were destroyed.

Eyewitnesses said flames leapt 30 to 40ft in the air as the inferno engulfed up to 130ft of the pier, and the blaze could be seen for miles.

As Mr Dudderidge, Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, surveyed the scale of the damage, he said it was a "big blow" to the town's tourist industry.

"I would hope to see it reopen within the year - but nearer a year than six months.

"There is no point in reacting to things ad hoc and just simply patching things up. We want a proper job done."

Southend Borough Council leader Anna Waite, who accompanied the MP on his visit said, the fire had been a very sad blow for the town.

"But out of a sad occurrence has to come a positive end and therefore we have to take the time as a council and a town to decide what we want on the end of our pier and then draw up plans," she said.


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