Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 13:30 UK

Town's anguish at pier's demise

The pier ablaze: pic courtesy of Jean Taylor
The fire service said the pier has been completely destroyed. Pic: Jean Taylor

What was once the "jewel in Fleetwood's crown" has been reduced to a smouldering heap of metal.

Although the cause of the fire at Fleetwood pier is uncertain, the effect on the Lancashire town and its residents is clear.

Locals stood in the rain for hours watching the billowing smoke rise from the ashes of the former landmark.

Kyran Ronson, the fire officer in charge of the incident, said: "Its a landmark for Fleetwood and it's a shame that has now gone.

"If you look at the crowds here it shows the significance of the building for the community.

"For the majority of people around here its formed part of their lives."

This is the last thing Fleetwood needed just now
Local businesswoman Diana Christy

Hotel-owner Sheila Grace, 60, who was born in Fleetwood, agreed.

"I know things have changed, but it was the jewel in Fleetwood's crown - everybody headed there and everybody knew it," she said.

Businesswoman Diana Christy, 59, said she thinks the destruction of the pier is a sad indication of the state of the town.

"A lot of local residents have been saying that it will go up in smoke for a long time because its been empty and in disrepair for years.

"I'm involved in the tourist industry in Fleetwood and have recently just lost my tea room because of recession.

"This is the last thing that Fleetwood needed."

The historic pier, which was finished in 1910, was built in the "golden age" of pier building from 1860 to 1910.

Like its neighbour in Blackpool, it continued to remain profitable throughout the declining years of the seaside resort.

Fleetwood Pier before the fire
The pier was first built in 1906

In the 1940s a cinema was added and it had a 70,000 facelift in 1972.

But before the fire it had been boarded up for over a year as discussions went on about its future.

Some fear this integral part of the county's history is now lost forever.

Eric Smallman, 43, who owns the Savoy hotel 75 yards from the pier, said it had been feared "something like this would happen".

"We have had a bit of trouble recently with kids breaking into it and causing mischief really.

"It hasn't been a nice pier to look at and needed something doing with it.

"It would have been nice to bring it back to use."

It is believed the fire started near the entrance to the pier, between a disused cafe and pub.

The flames caught hold at the front and worked their way along the structure.

Up to 90 firefighters manned 10 pumps in an effort to tackle the flames.

'Rise again'

It is the third pier to go up in flames in as many years.

In July, fire destroyed the 104-year-old pier at the Somerset resort of Weston-super-Mare, while part of Southend Pier was gutted by a fire in 2005.

Tim Phillips, chairman of the National Piers Society, said the burnt remains of the pier had a wider significance.

"It is another sad day," he said.

"Fleetwood is not the highlight of commercial success, it's rather out on a limb, and has some problems, with people sleeping under the pier and so on.

But Mr Phillips said he remained hopeful for the future.

"The sadness is that it's a great location, it needs a few heads knocking together and a bit of PR, and it can grow again.

"I'm an optimist, and unless the sub structure is severely damaged, I think it can rise again."


SEE ALSO
Historic pier destroyed in fire
09 Sep 08 |  Lancashire
Your pictures: Fleetwood Pier fire
09 Sep 08 |  In Pictures
Huge fire destroys historic pier
28 Jul 08 |  Somerset
Historic pier under hammer again
19 Jan 07 |  Lancashire
Landmark pier fails to get price
07 Jul 05 |  Lancashire
Landmark pier goes up for auction
05 Jul 05 |  Lancashire
Fleetwood Pier goes up for sale
22 Jun 05 |  Manchester
Dock becomes open-air art gallery
17 Jun 05 |  Merseyside

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