Benefit society chairman expresses fears over future of Shotley pier project

By Derek Davis

16th Sep 2021 | Local News

After six years and nearly £500,000, fears have been aired over the future of the Shotley pier restoration.

Despite years of fundraising and massive investment, just 30metres of the pier has been restored and the use of 'scaffolding poles' on the current refurbishment has been criticised.

Now John Davitt, chairman of the Shotley Heritage Charitable Community Benefit Society Ltd, that is running the project has admitted further progress is in doubt due to the cost of materials and delays in supplies which he blames on Brexit and HGV driver problems.

Mr Davitt told Anglia TV last night: "Supplies have been delayed due to issues like driver shortages and the burden of Brexit paperwork.

"The rising price of materials like timber is causing issues too. The cost of timber has now become prohibitive, and more recently to be able to finish it off we needed the railings and the final part of the railings are some mesh at the bottom for health and safety reasons and we've been unable to get that.

"It's been extremely frustrating because we wanted to open the pier at the beginning of summer but that just hasn't been possible because of the delays."

The group has allowed people onto the Shotley pier, opposite the Bristol Arms, and people have been able to look at the small plaques placed on the decking.

Visitor Paul Gee from Ipswich said: "My wife and I visited Shotley a few weeks ago and were very impressed at the way the whole front looked. It was good to be able to go on the pier and see the work done so far. We hope that can continue."

However, the look, especially the silver-coloured hand rails have been slammed by others as looking out of place and not appropriate.

Long time Shotley Gate residents Suzie Scholes said: "They look like scaffolding poles, nothing like what was their before and certainly nothing like the images we were sold.

"Where are the old fashioned looking hand rails, the Victorian lights and other facets?

"While it is good see something done, however little, after all this time and all this money, you would expect much better."

It is six years this month since the first public meeting about restoring the pier, originally called Bristol Pier, was held, appropriately in the Bristol Arms, and a group was formed.

Babergh councillor Derek Davis helped secure £20,000 investment from the district council to be used as seed money to get the project off the ground.

Cllr Davis, along with Barrie Powell, Michael Scott and Sally Chicken, who was named chair of the board, officially formed the Shotley Heritage Charitable Community Benefit Society Ltd in December 2016.

Mr Powell and Cllr Davis subsequently resigned from the board over concerns with the behaviour and decisions of members,.

Mrs Chicken stepped down as chair after admitting making a false statement regarding the then secretary, but stayed on as vice-chair to Mr Davitt.

The pier group suffered further set backs when it was denied planning permission to build a cafe, offices and workshops on the pier. It subsequently lost an appeal to the Secretary of State, despite paying out thousands to consultant and legal fees.

Last year, a digger working on the project got stuck in the mud, with a recovery cost and loss of the digger as a write off, estimated to be between £70,000 and £100,000. It is not yet completely clear if the benefit society or contractors were insured against the loss, or if the insurers paid out.

Despite being registered as a limited company with Companies House, no details of accounts, directors or other information are available in the public domain.

Meanwhile, work to restore Admiralty pier, which was actually used by HMS Ganges trainees learning to sail and use cutters and whalers, has also been partially renovated - at no cost to the public or taxpayers.

Admiralty pier was also used by the Queen when she came ashore to visit HMS Ganges, the Shotley peninsula and Ipswich, on more than one occasion.

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