Herne Bay needs a major visitor attraction if it is to thrive in the 21st century, a pier could provide such an attraction and could be the catalyst for regeneration and prosperity. There is the potential to provide a new pier which would “help regenerate Herne Bay as a thriving seaside town with good employment opportunities for local people” but there would need to be considerable effort in securing external funding.
PMP was appointed by Canterbury City Council in February 2004 to undertake a feasibility study into a new pier at Herne Bay. The consultancy team was comprised of:
- PMP (a specialist sport and leisure consultancy),
- Marks Barfield Architects,
- Donaldsons (property consultants),
- Yolles (structural engineers) and
- Gardiner and Theobold (cost consultants).
The aim of the study is to put forward technically feasible ideas for rebuilding the pier and to assess the financial viability and achievability of proposals. Two main types of proposals have been assessed:
- rebuild to the style of the former pier, with free public access and limited commercial development
- develop a large-scale commercial complex intended as a spur to regenerate the town as a major regional centre for leisure, maritime activities and other visitor attractions. Options for varying the length of the pier may have been considered.
The primary objective of the project is:
“to help regenerate Herne Bay as a thriving seaside town with a strong local economy and provide good employment opportunities for local people”
Five key conditions must apply to any proposal:
- the pier must be accessible to local people
- the present or improved sports facilities must be incorporated within the pier complex or be relocated to an appropriate alternative site within the town
- the proposal will need to be fully funded by external sources, primarily the private sector. lt must not be assumed that significant capital or revenue sums will be available from Kent County Council or Canterbury City Council to fund this project nor to underwrite any losses
- the project must be financially, environmentally and technically sustainable in the long term
- any improvements required to the highway and transport network and other essential infrastructure development work must have a realistic prospect of being deliverable.
Summary of Conclusions
Herne Bay needs an attraction…
- Herne Bay needs a major visitor attraction if it is to thrive in the 21st century, a pier could provide such an attraction and could be the catalyst for regeneration and prosperity.
…but it also needs an overall strategy
- A missing component at this stage, however, is a clear strategy for the regeneration of Herne Bay. This is one of the fundamental points in Sea Changes, the strategy for resort regeneration. lt also anticipates the first question which will be asked by any potential funding body: “so where does the pier sit in the bigger scheme of things?”
- Furthermore, the pier project and the regeneration strategy are more likely to be successful if they are placed in the wider East Kent context. This will be the case for the tourism product as a whole. Redevelopment of the pier alongside projects such as the Turner Centre in Margate and the reputation of Whitstable as a character destination will add to the critical mass and will help maintain the vitality of the area for visitors.
Strong commercial interest
- There is a strong level of commercial interest in developing on a new pier; however, the income from the private sector needs to be offset against the substantially increased costs of developing over water compared to developing on dry land.
- A casino would provide the main attraction on the commercial pier. It would be complemented by other uses to ensure a family friendly environment and all day/ year round interest.
- There is no certainty that a boat operation from the end of the pier would be commercially viable, so the rationale for providing a ¾ mile long pier must be questioned. Furthermore, any long pier option has a major cost which makes commercial viability impossible. Therefore, it is more beneficial to concentrate on short pier options.
The four main options arising
- The two main options in the brief – a traditional pier and a modern, commercial pier – need to be seen in the context of two additional options: do nothing, and demolition.
- “Do nothing” would mean that Herne Bay continues with the present pier and sports pavilion until both facilities, inevitably, decline to the extent that they are no longer functional or viable. At present this is costing the council £70,000 per year (£45,000 for the sports hall and £25,000 for pier maintenance) plus an additional £272,000 required in maintenance over four years just to keep the sports centre to its current standard (source: IPF condition survey).
- If the pier were allowed to decay it would have a significant negative impact on the town. Furthermore, closure at the end of its life would force the issue of replacement in any case (with all the associated capital costs).
- Demolition would avoid the problems that come with decay and dereliction (vandalism, public safety, blight, etc) but it would be a depressing and premature end to the pier. lt is not a way forward that we would recommend.
No self funding options
- Our analyses have shown that none of the options are self funding and all are likely to require some level of support from public grants, ranging from £0.6m to £12.8m. Clearly, options at the higher end of the scale are unlikely to be deliverable. There are a number of public sector grants available and the pier could make an attractive funding proposition based on its regenerative potential.
- To summarise, there is the potential to provide a new pier which would “help regenerate Herne Bay as a thriving seaside town with good employment opportunities for local people” but there would need to be considerable effort in securing external funding.
- This report is used as the basis for consultation with external funding organisations to clarify the level, likelihood and timing of additional funds.
- A regeneration strategy and masterplan for Herne Bay is prepared, setting the pier and other local initiatives in context, and ensuring that infrastructure improvements are not undertaken in isolation.
- Further public consultation takes place on the emerging options.
- There is a detailed feasibility study into the relocation of the sports centre.
- Further technical studies are undertaken into construction options in order to provide greater cost certainty, and to explore routes for cost reduction.