Victoria Pier, Colwyn Bay

Nash Partnership was appointed in 2014 to advise Conwy County Borough Council on the future options of the Grade II listed Victoria Pier for which both planning and listed building consents were required, as conservation planners and architects. The structure had reverted into the ownership of the Council after a long history of failing private ownership. After promoting a successful bid to HLF for restoration study funds, the Council concluded the merits of this £15m restoration scheme did not justify the large matching funds the project required, in an area on considerable deprivation.

The listed buildings application was to be determined by an inspector appointed by the Welsh Assembly Government. The case for demolition reflects its extreme condition and contamination risks. It also highlights the risk to the town’s economy of continuous sterilisation of the newly-restored beach, the evident lack of restoration capacity and the benefits to Colwyn Bay of the partial demolition that the inspector has concluded is actually required.

Two previous phases of the pier’s superstructure had been destroyed by fire. The present structure is extremely unsafe, riddled with friable asbestos and has this year started to collapse into the sea. Working with CADW, the LPA, marine engineers and through public consultation exhibitions, we explored a wide range of options for various degrees of partial alterations testing them against the statutory policy tests the Welsh Assembly Minister will need to apply. This testing has required a detailed understanding of the conditions of individual elements of the structure and its ability to survive, after the removal of many structural elements beyond repair or already structurally unsound.

Many of the options required new elements of structure to maintain adequate stability. Each option has been modelled in BIM so its visual impact in the bay can be assessed. Consideration has had to be given to the potential to uncover murals in the 1934 pier pavilion by important modern romantic artists.

This project has required a careful balancing of the viability prospects of a long term regeneration needed by Colwyn Bay to create a new kind of visitor offer and the health and safety hazards of the existing structure, which have been played out with public engagement, in exhibitions and public meetings.

One of these options involves keeping the original columns of the 1900 era pier (which have highly ornamental cast iron stanchions) as freestanding elements on the beach, lit after dark. Another involves reconstructing a section of the pier and dismantling the remainder for possible future re-use.