Posted 8 March 2012 by Andrew Gardner
That bastion of British seaside tradition, the pier, is disappearing fast. These iconic wooden structures seem to burn down or get ravished by storms at an alarming rate and those that remain become national treasures.
So when you find a fully-functioning pier – and the Brighton Pier is one – what's the attraction? It's tacky, it's noisy and there's probably a cold wind blasting through the boards. You'll burn cash in the amusement arcade, perhaps feel a bit dizzy as you peer at the surging sea below or shudder at the recollection of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock gangsters, and the kids will clamour to go on the fairground rides before demanding candyfloss; but there's an indoor fish-and-chip restaurant and three bars and, let's face it, there's just something about the atmosphere. Perhaps because it's been enjoyed by so many people for so long, or perhaps because – and it's easy to forget this – back in 1823 it was the landing stage for ferries to and from Dieppe, it has a certain je ne sais quois, a timeless, feelgood experience for anyone and everyone.
Brighton's derelict West Pier, on the other hand, is once again the subject of debate. This graceful creature was built in 1866 purely as a leisure attraction, and remained in use until 1975. A massive storm in 2002 caused terrible damage and two arson attacks within the next six months destroyed its pavilion and concert hall. English Heritage felt it could be salvaged, but when the Heritage Lottery Fund pulled out the project had to be scrapped. Or did it?
The latest rescue plan comes from a Sussex developer who wants to restore the West Pier in time for the 150th anniversary of its opening, in 2016. He says it's possible but the West Pier Trust is a bit sceptical about his figures. We already have the Brighton Ferris Wheel, of course, and the trust is committed to another project nearby, the i360 tower, which will be a fabulous tourist attraction if it happens: a 150-metre observation tower designed to give stunning views of the coast and attract visitors to Brighton and Hove. It's been designed by the team behind the London Eye, which has done so much for the South Bank, and they currently say it'll be finished next year.
So watch this space – and in the meantime, our Sussex cottages are all within easy reach of Brighton. Enjoy the pier and all its attractions while you can.