The slow death of Colwyn Bay pier.

As a child growing up in Old Colwyn, the village next to Colwyn Bay, the imaginary borders of my home town were an imposing white hotel perched on the cliff overlooking it, and a pier that stabbed out into the sea. Everything after the pier was Rhos on sea to me then, the next village along the coast, and that reasoning has stuck in my head ever since. To me, these two objects were boundary markers set in stone, never to be moved or demolished, and I couldn’t imagine Colwyn Bay without either of them.

The, “Hotel 70 Degrees”, (or, “The 70’s” as we called it, even when it changed its name to the Colwyn Bay Hotel), was built in 1972 and became a noted piece of the local scenery fairly quickly. Eye catching and smart, it was visible for miles due to its position on top of Penmaen head, the rock overlooking the bay, and its dazzling white walls.

Alas, the only constant in life is change, and buildings are never as safe as we believe them to be. After facing the harsh northern winds of the Irish Sea for over thirty years, the 70’s finally fell to an even harsher economic climate, and was killed off by a pen and a planning permission form.

The hotel was replaced by some very pricey blocks of flats that peer down their noses at the sprawl of the council estate I grew up on. To me, now a tourist to my home town, but once as native a Welshman as Owain Glyndŵr, Penmaen head will never be the same without that iconic palace of a building holding court over those below it.

However, a building built in the early seventies can hardly be called a piece of local heritage. Fetching and swish as it was in its heyday, it’s fair to say the 70’s was only so well known because of its exceptional positioning.

Okay then, what about my other imaginary town limit, a Grade 2 listed building, built in 1900 and as much a part of Colwyn Bay’s identity as the sea?

The pier has been a part of the Colwyn Bay scenery since the turn of the last century. Having survived fire and the worse Poseiden can throw at it; it too has now fallen to a callous fiscal environment and the apathy, and some may say malice of the county council.

I spent my youth on its salted boards, be it fishing with my tad and brother, playing the machines with my friends, or at the disco on my infrequent visits home as a young soldier. The pier wasn’t just one of my imagined boundaries; it was a statement of intent for the whole of the Bay area. The land Colwyn Bay sits on was bought by a group of Manchester businessmen in 1865 with the sole idea of making it into a seaside resort, and every seaside resort of note has a pier.

On the 12th December, 2013, the Conwy County Borough Council voted to tear it down. Citing a lack of funds for the project, a project that has been under their wing since March 2012, they’ve opted to demolish it and have done with the problem.  No money they said, despite the fact they’ve recently spent millions on a white elephant on the seafront, (Porth Eirias stands on Colwyn Bay promenade, and has been nominated for The Carbuncle Cup, an award for the worst modern architecture built in the last 12 months) and paid for sand for a new beach to be pumped in from the sea.

As sad as that may be, for me, the real disgrace is that the pier’s death has been so horribly protracted and ugly. Riddled with egos and broken promises, the handling of the whole situation reads like a corruption scandal you normally expect to see in an Eastern European country. If the website run by the businessman who bought the pier in 2003 is to be believed, then I despair for my home town and its running.

Mr. Steve Hunt moved into the area with the best intentions in the world, namely to revive the Victoria Pier to be a functioning part of the town. He bought the pier as a private owner and set about refurbishing it. After a hotly disputed wrangle in the courts over unpaid taxes, Mr. Hunt was declared bankrupt in 2008 and the management of the pier was vested in trustees, Royce Peeling Green (RPG). Mr. Hunt maintains that records and money have been hidden so he couldn’t use them as evidence, of personal vendettas against him colouring the councils dealings and insanely careless book keeping.

His website routinely labels the Conwy County Borough Council as corrupt and has a list of crimes and misdeeds made by councillors that beggars belief. Obviously, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that Mr. Hunt is paranoid, maybe a liar and definitely suffering from a case of sour grapes. However, a visit to his website and the page titled, “Named and shamed. Council officers exposed”, sets his grievances down publicly in black and white, with this declaration at the foot of the page,

“Again I challenge any of the above individually, or CCBC as a whole, to sue me for Libel if they wish to allege any of the above FACTS are not TRUE.

Come on CCBC…
I dare you…
Your continued acquiescence proves your guilt.”

To the uninitiated, like myself, it’s a shocking state of affairs, and one I find hard to reconcile with my image of a benevolent county council seeking what’s best for its constituents. I was, at first, ambivalent about Mr. Hunt and his venture. The pier was a part of my childhood and youth, as it has been for countless other people, and for sentimental reasons I wanted it saved. Conversely, at such great cost to the taxpayers when money is so tight, I wondered at the practicalities of such a venture, and the running costs after its refurbishment?

However, after reading through Mr. Hunt’s website and the list of mismanagement, shamefully bad decisions and law breaking, I’ve found myself driven into the “save the pier” corner by my anger. The challenge at the bottom of the page says everything to me; Mr. Hunt can’t be telling lies if he so publicly throws the gauntlet down like that, can he?

Before the pier can be demolished it must be de-listed. The first foray into the battle will be to fight this in the courts. If you are from the North Wales area, or you have an interest in this subject for whatever reason, I urge you to visit Mr. Hunt’s website and have a read. You will be shocked, I promise you.

http://www.victoriapier.co.uk/

Hopefully there’ll be a petition soon, because the public voice is only ever heard when we stand together, and I’ll be asking you to please put your name to it if you have an interest in the subject.

Saving the pier is not impossible, I read in the Daily Post that a Heritage Lottery Fund application for £4.37m is currently in the second stage, and the council could still claim close to £4m from EU funding and £4m from community grant funds for renovation. However, when the pier’s gone, it’s gone, and there’ll be no going back. So surely it’s best to try and find the money rather than give up?

Thanks for reading.

Reg.

Update 16/12/13
Here’s the petition, please sign it. Many thanks in advance.
http://www.change.org/petitions/conwy-borough-council-overturn-the-decision-to-knock-down-colwyn-bay-pier-and-restore-it?share_id=pUOjQXIqDs&utm_campaign=share_button_action_box&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

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13 thoughts on “The slow death of Colwyn Bay pier.

  1. Reg,

    I can only thank you for such an eloquent article.

    Everything I say about the Council on my website is backed up by facts – and all of the documentary evidence is presented there on the website for anyone to inspect. All my ‘accusations’ are shown to be true in the Council’s own documents. What more proof can I provide than that? I am not so stupid to publish such seemingly outrageous statements without them being backed 100% by documentary evidence.

    As you rightly point out, that information has been made public for several years, as has the challange to contest it in Court if they wish to deny it. I have never hidden behind “anonymous blogs” or similar – I have always put my name to anything I have ever said, and I stand by that.

    The real scandal is perhaps not even the corrupt Council; it is those organisations that seek to protect these corrupt scumbags… without exception, EVERY regulatory body I have been to has failed totally in their job. None is truly independant. You see, all “independant bodies” are paid for by the Government, as is the Council, as is the Police, as is the Courts. It quickly becomes obvious that they are all in the same club (quite literally as it happens) – and all exist to protect each-other.

    Ultimately, all any of these people take any notice of is how they are perceived in the media… and unfortunately in the North of Wales, the media is spectacularly poor at investigative journalism…

    However, I am not a man who gives up on anything. I never have. I never will.

    The Council has got away with bullying hundreds of people over the years, destroying thousands of lives in the process. The stories I hear from people on almost a daily basis would shock most. But not I. I’ve been there.

    I’m the only person who has ever had the balls to stand up to this corrupt filth and expose them for what they are.
    They don’t like that one bit.
    They thought I’d give in and go away.
    They thought they could break me.
    They thought wrong.

    Regards petitions, an official government petition is awaiting approval, and I’ll be posting a link as soon as it goes live (hopefully in the next couple of days) – if we can garner 100,000 signatures over the next 12 months, then the prospect of the corrupt Council trying to destroy our heritage in a desperate last-ditch attempt to cover up their criminal activities will be discussed in Parliament.

    Keep the faith!

    Steve Hunt

      • Apologies Andrew, I’ve only just approved the comment. I thought I’d already given it the green light on my phone. Unfortunately, HTC and WordPress don’t often see eye to eye and nothing happened.
        I, for one, am shocked at what’s happened to the running of my home town, and your comments only help entrench my anger at its despotic carryings-on.

  2. Please can you correct a comment that is completely wrong in this article: “Mr Hunt accuses the town councillors” – the town councillors have not been involved in any of this legal wrangle -it was county councillors and officers that he considers have robbed him of his pier.

  3. Conwy CC also took the view of the Civic Trust who recommended that it should be demolished…..they are there to represent the views of Colwyn Bay unfortunately they aren’t. Personally I’d love to see CB pier renovated similar to that of Bangor pier, kept simple but would support any scheme to save it. Great article Reg.

  4. It’s much bigger than just the pier now. There have been many accusations against a variety of public officials/bodies/agencies over the years & even decades yet nothing changes for the better. They are so smug in the knowledge that they are untouchable – but they are wrong.

    If the accusations against named individuals made by Mr Hunt are not true then WHY have they not utilised their immense “legal” resources to sue him for defamation?
    I note that Mr Hunt used my experience of a corrupt solicitor who from 2007/2008 started working for the CCBC & who I had the misfortune to rely upon at a difficult time when he worked at a so-called “quality” solicitor in Conwy, to corroborate HIS experience of this CORRUPT piece of trash, paid in ALL roles of criminal misdeeds by the public purse – amazing!
    BUT I have to tell Mr Hunt that he is not the only CORRUPT solicitor in the area as was revealed on the “solicitors from hell” website before the brave owner of the site was bullied & forced to shut it down, though the enormous list of white collar criminals is still available on another site, based on a foreign server, I believe, lol.

    WHAT is it about this area that has allowed & has promoted this unofficially recognised CRIMINAL behaviour? Some on the left (& they’re not without blame either) are quick to blame free masonry but whatever is behind it, it can be described as a form of organised crime, that’s for sure. Most of the accusations seem to be against all parts of the public services (council officials, the police, cps, social services, probation service & the nhs etc, etc, etc) & those that rely upon public money &/or sexual favours for their incompetent & corrupt services ie solicitors. Perhaps there should be a wholesale historic public enquiry carried out by a foreign body with no connections to the area? The task would be huge but that is what is required to clear the foul stench of endemic corruption. Oh yes, after all we have operation PALLIAL (just being seen to be going through the motions – 2nd attempt) investigating historical institutional child abuse. It’s all sadly & sickeningly connected I’m afraid.

    Mr Hunt is also spot on with regard to the worthless rags that purport to be the free press in the area. They are also part of the same problem, but thank God we do have the internet now, which the filth had wished did not exist, I’m sure.

    Perhaps, we should take a leaf out of the middle eastern book & actually DO SOMETHING about it?

  5. Both the pier and the 70 are important to me. My grandpa was Restaurant Manager at Rhos Abbey Hotel (now flats) in 1930’s and was very proud to later be pier manager during the war. He (John Christian) died in 1946 and he would be mortified to see what has happened to the pier since then. It was still great in 50’s when I was a boy.

    Most Saturday nights in 1975-80 period I would book a table in 70. It was THE place to dine, with Anna Ziegler and Webster Booth (famous at time) often sat at best table in corner, looking across the beautiful Bay twinkling in the moonlight. The Restaurant Manager was fantastic – think he may have been called Albert and he and his wife set up a successful restaurant later in Prestatyn. The General Manager was also splendid – he seemed to be involved in the kitchens, the food was by far the best in the Colwyn Bay area, and he would come round all the tables and chat to customers as if he had all the time in the world for them. And it was a very busy place on a Saturday night.

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