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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
Pier fires spark review of restoration
The latest damage to the pier
Both sections of the derelict pier have been hit by fire in six weeks

Plans to restore Brighton's derelict West Pier have been thrown into doubt by the latest fire to hit the structure.

English Heritage has announced it is to urgently review the restoration project in the light of this week's fire - the second this year.

It is thought the outcome of the review could affect whether the pier's owners get 14m worth of lottery money vital to the rebuilding plans.

But owners the West Pier Trust say they are still confident English Heritage will back them and work will go ahead - and say they are used to fighting battles.

Flames re-ignited

The fire broke out at about 0200 BST on Sunday and is thought by firefighters to have been started deliberately.

It was brought under control within hours but firefighters were forced to leave several "hot spots" burning because they were unable to reach them safely and the flames re-ignited on Monday.

The fire tore through the ballroom on the section of the pier closest to the shore - which had already partially collapsed into the sea during storms in December and January.

Fire re-ignites on Monday
The latest fire started on Sunday but flared up again on Monday

The latest fire came just weeks after the pavilion section of the pier, further out to sea, was completely gutted in another fire on 28 March, which stripped much of the structure down to its metal skeleton.

Throughout the troubles The West Pier Trust has been insistent that restoration of the structure, which has been closed since 1975, would go ahead.

In February the trust was given planning permission to start work to restore the pier after a lengthy fight which had seen their plans opposed by people living nearby and the owners of the nearby Brighton (Palace) Pier.

English Heritage has always been supportive of the restoration scheme but said on Thursday it wanted to "take a fresh look" at the pier's future.

Funding vital to plans

This does not necessarily mean it will withdraw support for the restoration - and even if it did it would not definitely mean the lottery funding being withdrawn.

But is is widely thought that English Heritage does have influence over those behind the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The 14m promised to the pier owners from the lottery fund is vital to the plans and was one of the reasons why work had not started before the troubles of the last few months.

West Pier fire, 28 March 2003 - part of the pier collapses
A fire in March left just a metal skeleton at the pier's pavilion end

Work was put on hold while the owners of Brighton Pier, commonly known as the Palace Pier and just a few hundred yards along the seafront, unsuccessfully argued it was unfair for one of two 'rival' piers to get financial assistance while the other got nothing.

Rachel Clark of the West Pier Trust remained defiant on Thursday.

She told the BBC: "There are so many obstacles in our way and while we've got used to it, it is very frustrating.

"The fires in particular make us very angry because they appear to be a criminal act.

"But quite apart from the fires, we've been dealing with legal action for two years now and it's extremely frustrating.

"But we've just got to battle against it."




SEE ALSO:
Pier fire flares up again
12 May 03  |  Southern Counties
'No evidence' pier fire was arson
06 May 03  |  Southern Counties
Flare link to West Pier fire
03 Apr 03  |  England
West Pier destroyed by fire
28 Mar 03  |  England
In pictures: West Pier fire
28 Mar 03  |  Photo Gallery
Pier restoration plans approved
26 Feb 03  |  England
Pier re-opens after fire
05 Feb 03  |  England


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