Pier fires in the UK may be related to hard times as owners struggle to pay rates and electricity bills



Abid Gulzar and Brett Mclean shake hands on Eastbourne Pier


PLANNING HISTORY - It is clear from the grant of listed building consent as reproduced below from the Council's archives that replacement of the penny arcade, previously known as the Blue Room, is required by the local authority. Anyone seeing this would know that there is a legal requirement to replace heritage assets, being that all reasonable efforts to restore must be countenanced by the owners and the council. See the NPPF at Para. 136. Any prospective purchasers would be privy to the planning history and so would know what was required on them. The only way to stop a council from taking the required steps to ensure replacement is via the members, not the officers. If you can talk the members into going against officer recommendations, it is possible to subvert the planning process and get away with the obligation to restore missing heritage. One way to sway the members in any planning situation is to donate regular sums of money to their favourite causes.




Decision Due Date: 4 January 2014 

Ward: Devonshire

Officer: Anna Clare 

Site visit date: 13 November 2014

Type: Listed Building Consent 

Site Notice(s) Expiry date: 5 December 2014

Neighbour Consultation Expiry: 5 December 2014

Weekly list Expiry: 8 December 2014

Press Notice(s): 12 December 2014

Over 8/13 week reason: Brought to planning committee within statutory deadline.

Location: Eastbourne Pier, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, BN21 3EL

Proposal: Listed building consent is sought for works to the Grade II* listed building, namely;


• Dismantling the steel super structure [Arcade] and removal from site. 

• Removal all fire-damaged cast iron furniture (balustrades, lighting columns and wind-breaks) and timber waling beam support sections, in all areas affected by the fire. Refurbish and replace where required, replacement balustrade posts and panels in steel / alloy. 

• Replace all lattice girders and deck beams, test cast iron piles for cracking or heat defects. Repair, strengthen or replace where necessary.

Applicant: Mr Stott, Six Piers Limited 

Recommendation: Approve Listed Building Consent 




The application proposes works to the fire damaged pier, including removal of the Arcade building which was damaged beyond repair by a fire in July 2014. The works are to commence immediately and will allow for the re-opening of a temporary decked area for public access in May 2015. The existing floor area will be reinstated with a temporary timber deck which will provide a flat and level access over the full width of the existing building. 

The original cast iron balustrade and lighting columns will be reinstated giving an open deck area running between the existing Promenade buildings to the Ramp section which is approximately half way along the Pier. 

It is anticipated that an application to rebuild the Arcade building will be submitted in due course. The works are considered acceptable and therefore it is recommended that Listed Building Consent be granted. 

Relevant Planning Policies: 

National Planning Policy Framework 2012 

7. Requiring good design

12. Conserving or enhancing the historic environment Core Strategy Local Plan 2013 Policies -

C1: Town Centre Neighbourhood Policy 
D10: Historic 
D10A: Design 

Eastbourne Borough Plan Saved Policies 2007 

UHT4: Visual Amenity 
UHT15: Protection of Conservation Areas 
UHT17: Protection of Listed Buildings and their settings



The lights are low at Eastbourne Borough Council


PLANNING STRATEGY - It might have been better if the listed consent to remove the burned out steel structure was tied to a specific condition to restore the Blue Room within a specific timeframe, rather than leave it to the owners to take reasonable steps to restore. Any shrewd businessman would see this as a way to get out of having to make repairs within a sensible timescale. He or she would know that the local authority would have a fight on their hands because of the potentially ambiguous wording that some operators would see as a 'get out clause.' With government cuts to planning budgets it is possible for developers to get away with blue murder, gambling that the council will roll over and play dead. Any deliberate action on the part of any owner, including not doing something that they ought to know they should be doing - may constitute fraud, under the provisions of the Fraud Act 2006.


One way of ensuring that councils carry out their statutory function is to seek a Judicial Review when their administration is not doing what it should be doing.


Judicial review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body, focusing on procedural correctness. You can see from the decision making process, the thinking behind the grant of a permission, or the refusal of a planning consent, that if appropriate remedies are not used concerning a heritage asset of some importance, that that sloth would be challengeable in law.

In other words, judicial reviews are a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made, rather than the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached. In this case a review could focus on the failure to take action, when action is in the public interest. At the moment (20-11-15) that may not be an issue, but it could well become an issue in not very long. The people of Eastbourne want their pier restored to that before the fire in July 2014.

A Judicial Review is not really concerned with the conclusions of that process and whether those were ‘right’, as long as the right procedures have been followed. The court will not substitute what it thinks is the ‘correct’ decision, but it can rule any decision or refusal to act as being ultra-vires, or misfeasance in public office. In rare cases misfeasance can become malfeasance. Misfeasance is a civil wrong, malfeasance is a matter for the criminal courts.


Interestingly, magistrates form the core of the judiciary, hearing some 97% of all criminal cases. Unbelievably, they are volunteers, requiring no legal qualifications, unlike a judge. The problem with judges is that they can become complacent and aloof and work together to uphold wrongful verdicts in what is called "Noble Cause Corruption." Bearing this in mind, a case should be aimed at the moral high ground and those virtues that a community oriented judge might agree is important.

If a Judicial Review succeeds, this may mean that the public body will be able to make the same decision again, but only so long as it does so in a lawful way. Misfeasance in public office is when any local authority fails to fulfill its administrative function. In cases of lesser importance, a matter can be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman.




The Pier designed by Eugenius Birch, was officially opened in 1870 by Lord Edward Cavendish, son the Duke of Devonshire. Various alterations/extensions and works have been undertaking since the original conception. 

In 1925 a section of The Piers upper deck level near the shore end, was widened with the installation of additional piles and deck support lattice girders. The then music pavilion, introduced new visual interest to The Pier and skyline, with an oval domed zinc roof and large iron-crested central roof-light. The structure later functioned as an amusement arcade [the Arcade], and prior to the fire of 2014, was decorated with diagonally placed weatherboarding to the walls, reeded pilasters and blocked multi-paned sash windows. 

The listing description describes the building as following; 

The north west end has a wide central entrance with round-headed window and cornice and pilasters flanked by smaller entrances with cornices and brackets. The south east end has a tall central entrance with pilasters and oculus.

The interior has large segmental arches and Art Deco decoration of floral swags, urns and Vitruvian scrolls. There is a proscenium arch at the south east end with Art Deco motifs, but the stage has been removed and there is a later C20 staircase. 

The significance of Eastbourne Pier, to which the Arcade makes a valuable contribution, is found in its evidential, historic, architectural and communal value; as a structure which has physically evolved since its conception through natural causes and human need. 

Designed by Eugenius Birch in the late C19th and today one of the finest of Birch’s surviving seaside piers, which includes a 1901 ‘camera obsucra’; presumed the only example on a seaside pier in the world. Eastbourne Pier is a good example of an early promenade pier, later adapted to a pleasure pier. 

Relevant Planning History: None specifically relevant to this application. 

Proposed development: Following the fire on 30 July 2014 on Eastbourne Pier, it was found that the original Arcade building (formerly the Blue Room) was seriously damaged, with all building fabric and timber floor structure perished. 

The main steel-framed super-structure and parts of the sub-structure were seriously fire-damaged and consequently distorted. A structural assessment has established that the Arcade building structure requires dismantling and the damaged sub-structure replacing. 

Listed building consent is therefore sought for works to the Grade II* listed building, namely; 

• Dismantling the steel super structure [Arcade] and removal from site.

• Removal all fire-damaged cast iron furniture (balustrades, lighting columns and wind-breaks) and timber waling beam support sections, in all areas affected by the fire. Refurbish and replace where required, replacement balustrade posts and panels in steel / alloy.

• Replace all lattice girders and deck beams, test cast iron piles for cracking or heat defects. Repair, strengthen or replace where necessary. 


Consultations: Consultation comments including Conservation Area Advisory Group and are to be reported verbally at the planning committee. 

The views of English Heritage have also been sought and if received will be reported. 

Appraisal: Design issues and impact on character and setting of a listed building or conservation area: 

The works proposed through this application, have been assessed against the identified significance attached to the Arcade building, the immediate and wider setting of the Pier, of which the Arcade forms an integral part. Taking into account the visual inspection undertaken by Craven Bailey Consulting Ltd [Craven Bailey] on behalf of English 
Heritage namely; ‘Eastbourne Pier, Report on Fire-Damaged Building & Cast Iron Furniture, September 2014’. 

For ease of reference this assessment has addressed, the works in turn, as set out in Section 3, pg. 5 and Section 4, pg. REV 1 of the Craven Bailey report namely; 

Item 1 -Dismantling the steel super structure and removal from site. 

Removal of the fire damage Arcade from site would result in little harm to the overall significance of the heritage asset. As the significance associated with the Arcades evidential, historic and aesthetic values, where undermined as a result of the fire. In considering the heritage values attached to the wider Pier, the removal of the structure will 
facilitate investigative and repair works, to the screw piles supporting The Piers promenade and as such ensure its long term stability and use. 

The applicant has committed to a program of recording, as part of the process which is welcomed. 

Following which a copy of the record should be submitted to the Local Planning Authority, for transfer to the Sussex Historic Environment Records [HER] office. 

Item 2 -Removal all fire-damaged cast iron furniture (balustrades, lighting columns and wind-breaks) and timber waling beam support sections, in all areas affected by the fire. Refurbish and replace where required, replacement balustrade posts and panels in steel / alloy. 

In considering the removal of fire-damaged; cast iron furniture and timber waling beam support sections, from the promenade to the centrally located ramp, for refurbishment, repair and or replacement. This would result in little harm to the historic and architectural integrity of the historic structure, due to associated impact on the materials as 
a result of the fire. 

The principle of replacement balustrade posts and panels in steel / alloy around the Arcade as proposed is acceptable. As the existing balustrade posts and panels in steel / alloy, to the central ramp are aesthetically indistinguishable from those in the wider setting. This is however subject to English Heritages agreement. 

Item 3 -Replace all lattice girders and deck beams, test cast iron piles for cracking or heat defects. Repair, strengthen or replace where necessary. 

Removal of the lattice girders and deck beams would result in little harm to the significance, associated with The Pier as a whole. In addition the works would allow for full assessment of the cast iron piles which in turn would ensure the long term viability of The Pier as a historic structure. 

Following investigation of the screw piles there may be an element of repairs required; this however could be dealt with through a repair condition if and when it arises. 

Furthermore, in context of the works being carried out and the potential for future proposals on the site, the introduction of a new deck support framework and temporary timber deck is considered acceptable. 

In summary the works as proposed would result in little or no further harm to the overall significance of the heritage asset, than that already exists as a result of the fire. The following shows a timeframe for the works with the re-opening of the temporary decked area in May 2015, whilst discussions and proposals are considered by all parties 
for the replacement of the Arcade building; 

Phase 1 (Nov 2014):-re-instatement of the east and west walkways around the Arcade, to allow public access to the pier head. 


Phase 2 (Nov 2014 – Jan 2015):-dismantling and removal of the Arcade, sub-structure. Cranes will be used to assist in the dismantling of the steel structure and these will be off site by the 22nd December 2014. No angle grinders will be used, all steel to be cut in situ and then if further breaking is necessary it will occur in secure compound 
on the beach. All cutting will be by oxyacetylene torch. All scrap metal will be recorded and removed from the site via skip haul-away companies via the local road network. 

Phase 3 (Jan 2015 – May 2015):-Installation of new deck support framework and temporary timber deck, during which time the pier cast iron furniture (balustrades, lighting columns and wind-breaks) will be removed, refurbished and replace. 

Phase 4 (May 2015):-Completion and re-open the temporary decked area for public access.




The impacts of the proposal have been assessed as part of the application process. Consultation with the community has been undertaken and the impact on local people is set out above. The human rights considerations have been taken into account fully in balancing the planning issues; and furthermore the proposals will not result in any 
breach of the Equalities Act 2010. 

Recommendation: Delegate authority to the Senior Specialist Advisor Planning) to approve listed building consent and subject to the following conditions, subject to no objections from statutory consultees.





1) Time for commencement


2) Approved drawings 


3) A recording condition, the findings of which to be submitted to the LPA following completion of the works. (Item 1) 

4) A repairs condition to accommodate the investigative works required to the screw piles following the dismantling and removal of the Arcade structure. (Item 3) 

5) Prior to any demolition work commencing a method statement shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority, the method statement will highlight a safe working compound, access arrangement for the removal of the demolished material, parking, external illumination and turning areas on the Public Highway. The details as approved shall be implemented at the site and be retained as such thereafter. Reason In the interest of public safety and to ensure that the operation/implementation of the site does not adversely impact upon the local highway network. 

6) Prior to any demolition work commencing at the site details of the working hours/operating times shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The working hours/operating times shall be adhered to unless previously agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority. 

Reason:-In the interest of the amenity of the site and surrounding area.




HOT TOPIC - Incredibly, fire fighters were on the scene in sufficient time to save the penny arcade - as you can see from this picture- but for some reason nobody is squirting water at the building. The best way to have tackled this fire was from the entrance from Grand Parade. A fire is a convenient way to dispose of a building that one could otherwise not gain planning consent to remove. In this case the penny arcade would be nowhere near so profitable as a the next proposed fairground rides.




A NICE CHEERY BLAZE - The timing of the fire was spot on if the intention of the/any arsonist was to be sure that water to put the blaze out would be hard to source. How the fire got this far is a mystery. If hoses had been deployed from the entrance to the pier, they could have been aimed at the base of the fire inside the building - a far more effective way of cooling a fire, such that the escalation above would most likely have been stemmed. Has anybody seen a report on the incident?



The burnt out shell of the penny arcade on Eastbourne Pier


THE AWARD FOR MOST FIRES - Goes to Eastbourne Pier. Also meaning that it is the least profitable, the correlation is statistically unmistakable. We are counting down the days until the next event. So should you, because at the moment the owner does not have the reserves to install decent fire fighting equipment. The penny arcade was one of the most prominent features of this pier for over 90 years. It is as much a part of our heritage as fish and chips.







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