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Melchester's iconic Victorian pier is to get a new lease of life, with a multi-million-pound redevelopment programme set to begin next year.
The long-awaited refurbishment of the pier has finally been given the go-ahead, following a substantial pledge from local businessman, Terry Croker, owner of Croker Engineering. Melchester Council, the Historic Piers Trust and English Heritage have also agreed to fund a proportion of the project.
The plans for the restoration and improvement of the Grade II listed structure include a new state-of-the-art amusement arcade with computer gaming, three food outlets, a café-bar and a performance space. The project is expected to take around 18 months to complete.
Built in 1895, Melchester Pier was a popular attraction for Victorian holidaymakers, with a pavilion, a tea room and a narrow gauge steam railway which ran its full length of 800 metres. In his Guide to British Seaside Towns, the writer and poet Sir James Butcherman described the pier as 'the very heart of Melchester, once a beloved symbol of pride and prosperity, now with the faded but never diminished glory of a silent movie star'.
Having survived World War II bombing and the notorious storm of 1967, the pier was neglected and fell into disrepair during the harsh economic times of the early 1970s, and sections of it were closed to the public in 1980. Since then there have been several attempts to raise the necessary redevelopment funds, including an appeal in the 1990s, led by comedian and Victorian architecture enthusiast, Ray Burns.
"We're over the moon that the pier is finally going to get the restoration it so richly deserves," said Melchester's Head of Tourism, Anne Smiley. "Everyone loves a pier and we look forward to ours once again being able to take its rightful place at the centre of our fab, fun seaside experience."
Plans for the pier restoration can be viewed by appointment at Melchester Council offices. Alternatively, visit the Melchester Pier Project website, where you can view CGI visualisations and find out more about the proposed works.