Lowestoft Pier Coast


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Lowestoft Pier

Mark Horton visits Claremont Pier in Lowestoft and investigates the current perilous state of our seaside piers.


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Lowestoft is the most easterly point of our islands.

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Every morning the sun hits this bit of the country first.

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And when you actually get out here, you want to go out and greet the sun!

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Being at the seaside, the easiest way of getting that little bit closer is by going to the end of a pier.

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For the last 150 years, they have been a vital part of our seaside architecture.

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But we're losing them fast.

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Since the 1970s, 11 piers have been lost completely.

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While others, like Lowestoft's Claremont pier, still struggle on.

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To find out exactly what state it's in, the owner, David Scott, offered to give me a guided tour.

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Hello, David! Can we go inside your pier?

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How many generations has it been in your family?

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Three generations, Mark, actually.

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-A real responsibility!

-Huge responsibility!

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-Surely these machines make sackloads of money?

-Not bags of money, Mark.

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It used to be bags of money!

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Was it?!

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While David's arcade is still open for business, the pier itself has been closed to the public since 1982.

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-It's so wonderful to be out here!

-It's an unusual experience, isn't it?

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Having the sea below you like this.

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What was this pier like in its Edwardian heyday?

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Absolutely wonderful.

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I mean, obviously a sense of occasion coming on to a pier.

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Everyone dressed smartly. There were theatres.

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-Punters promenading up and down?

-Yes, absolutely packed!

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-Coming down to take the steamer off the end there.

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Obviously it used to be a lot longer than it is now.

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With a T-piece on the end as well to moor up against.

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I can show you some old archive photographs.

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Oh look, there it is!

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The steamer would stop off on the way to London and ferry people back.

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It wasn't just a pleasure pier? It had a commercial function?

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-Absolutely.

-What happened to the T-piece?

-Time and tide have taken it away.

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Seeing Claremont like this, it's easy to forget that it, like many of our piers, had a real working past.

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Like the Victorian equivalent of an airport.

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They were arrival points for passengers visiting the seaside.

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But unlike an airport, piers combined function with fun!

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The saucy shows and funfairs meant that they soon became leisure destinations in themselves.

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No self-respecting seaside resort could be without one.

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In the 50 years between 1860 and 1910,

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78 piers were built around the country.

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But today, many of the 54 that still stand are in as bad or worse condition than Claremont.

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The end of David's pier is now just too dangerous to walk on.

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So architect and National Pier Society member Tim Phillips has offered to give me

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a different perspective on the state of Britain's piers.

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Well, a pier like this, for example,

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where all the amusements are at the landward end,

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there's not much incentive for the owner perhaps to spend money.

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If it's a dangerous structure,

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you can't get even the fishermen on there paying you money.

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-Are they not protected, or listed or anything?

-Not in this case.

-No statutory protection?

-No, no.

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From this angle, it's obvious to see the problems

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that pier owners like David Scott face.

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Without the revenue from paddle steamers and their passengers,

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many piers ended up as endangered buildings housing arcade games and little else.

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But there are glimmers of hope.

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Just down the coast in Southwold,

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over a million pounds has been spent renovating their pier -

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and the visitors are coming back.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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