The West Pier – Leave her in peace

Leave her in peace
A muse for local photographers

Belatedly I have heard that Hastings Pier burned down in October 2010. What is it with Piers and fire?

October 2010 Hastings Pier –  September 2008 Fleetwood Pier –  July 2008 Grand Pier, Wester-Super Mare –  February 2003 Palace Pier, Brighton –  March and May 2003 West Pier, Brighton –  October 2005 Southend Pier

I’ve lived in Brighton for around ten years and for all that time the West Pier Trust has been twittering on about rebuilding the West Pier. The trust was established in 1978 and in all that time they appear to have achieved nothing.

Even after the superstructure of the pier was utterly destroyed in two fires in 2003 the Trust claimed that the infrastructure was still intact and that restoration would go ahead. However, despite the trusts interminable deliberations, despite its studies, web sites and marketing material the pier continued to deteriorate until in 2011 the soul useful purpose of the West Pier is to provide a muse for local photographers.

Since the pier is dead one might expect that the trust would make the remains safe, tidy up the foreshore and run itself down but that is not how bureaucracies work.

The West Pier Trust has a new idea. It is going to build a new “world-beating landmark”. An enormous spire with a viewing platform which goes up and down. The marketing material looks pretty good though one wonders if the trust will be any more successful at building this than it was at restoring the old West Pier.

Last year I attended a course on a Project Management framework known as PRINCE2. One of the aspects that was hammered home in this course was that one must continue to justify the project in terms of its stated objectives. If risks or issues occur then the project manager must go back to the executive and report that there may be a risk that the project cannot meet its objectives. The reason for this is that the decision to stop the project does not lie with the day to day management but with the project sponsor. The decision lies with the person or body who initiated and set in place the reason for the project.

It seems to me that the West Pier Trust have failed miserably in their management of restoration of the West Pier. Not only have they failed to restore the pier but they have invented a new objective for themselves once it became apparent that the original objective could not be met.

This probably sounds very dry and irrelevant but look at it like this. Suppose you saved up your pennies and decided to build an extension to your house. Suppose that the project manager who you engaged spent most of his time on presentations and web sites and then came back to you years later and told you that he had failed to build the extension but had built a fantastic swimming pool.

I believe that the Wets Pier Trust is a classic example of a self sustaining publicly funded bureaucracy. Even when its raison d’etre is removed the executives cannot bring themselves to dissolve the trust and go home. Even as the gutted ruins crumbled into the sea and as late 2007 the trust continued to proclaim their mantra that they would rebuild it. I would have loved to to attend the meeting where the staff of the trust finally acknowledged that the West Pier would never be rebuilt and then scrambled around for something to spend the money on and some way to keep themselves in jobs. One wonders what will happen once the viewing tower is completed? Will the West Pier Trust discover some other vital role it needs to fulfil? I have no doubt that they will surprisingly discover that managing the new structure takes the same if not more staff and a budget which seems to increase year on year.

Personally I am in favour of letting the the sea to take the bones of the West Pier and for the trust to die along with it.


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