RNLI reveals ‘most credible’ option for lifesaving base

rnli reveals most credible option for lifesaving base - RNLI reveals 'most credible' option for lifesaving base

The RNLI says it will continue to support the council’s bid to buy Weston-super-Mare’s Birnbeck Pier – following news it has been sold to new owners.

The owners of Birnbeck Pier, CNM Estates headed by businessman Wahid Samady, was ordered by the High Court in December to find a buyer for the dilapidated pier by January 22.

It was revealed earlier this week that a new company – Birnbeck Holdings Limited – has now been set up by CNM Estates which has purchased Birnbeck Island and the historic pier.

The company – also headed by Wahid Samady – says it now intends to start work on repairing and redeveloping the site.

The sale comes months after North Somerset Council launched a bid to compulsory purchase the pier, serving CNM Estates with a compulsory purchase order (CPO) in September last year.

The authority had previously made a financial offer to CNM Estates in a bid to avoid going through the lengthy and costly process of applying for a CPO on the pier.

However this was not accepted.

The plan is to secure the ownership of the pier then transfer the landmark to the RNLI.

The back-to-back deal would mean the pier is transferred immediately to the RNLI, which wants to return its operations to the island and restore public access.

As part of the plan, the RNLI will restore the pier, which over the years has fallen into a dangerous condition, and build a new lifeboat station, training facility and other operational buildings required.

The lifeboat service – based on the landmark for 131 years – was forced to move off the island in 2013 after concerns for the crew’s health and safety because of the dilapidated state of the structure.

It now operates from a temporary base at Knightstone Island.

RNLI chiefs say that the island still remains the safest place to base its operations and it will continue to support the authority’s bid for a compulsory purchase of the pier.

A spokesman for the RNLI said: “Birnbeck Island provides the safest access to launch and recover our lifeboats at all states of the tide.

“After investigating other sites over 20 years, our property on Birnbeck Island remains the only site we are aware of in Weston-super-Mare that fully covers the lifesaving need and minimises the chances of preventable loss of life.

“The RNLI are currently supporting the Compulsory Purchase Order issued by North Somerset Council with the goal of returning safely to our lifeboat station.

“At the moment, the CPO process is the most credible option to secure access and ensure the RNLI can provide the safest most effective lifesaving service for Weston.”

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CNM Estates has appealed the CPO to both the Magistrates Court and to the Secretary of State and says it is ‘confident’ the appeal will be upheld.

And it added that it remained open to a ‘consensual arrangement’ with the charity to base its lifesaving operations on Birnbeck.

A spokesman for CNM Estates and Birnbeck Holdings Limited said: “CNM Estates has always supported the RNLI presence on the island as it has been identified as the best location for life saving and remains open to a consensual arrangement with the group to enable this.

“CNM Estates reiterates its position that the RNLI should be provided with space reasonably required to meet their operational needs for life saving.

“However, it believes the RNLI should contribute, as they have already agreed, to the costs of the repair of the pier, which they have occupied and had beneficial use of for nearly 150 years without contributing towards its maintenance.

“This would help to ensure its ongoing use for the next 100 years.

“This position remains open for sensible dialogue between the site owner and the RNLI.”

CNM Estates purchased the pier in 2012 after major redevelopment plans fell by the wayside and says it now plans to start repairs and redevelopment of the site.

It says it plans to start bracing work to reinforce the pier’s trusses to stop further deterioration of the structure and that a planning application for the next phase of work has been drawn up and will be submitted shortly.

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