Blackpool’s three piers – including the Grade II (GII) listed North Pier – have been put on the 2018 ‘at risk’ list of the World Monuments Fund (WMF) due to the threats from the effects of climate change and changing tourism needs.
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Leader of Blackpool council Simon Blackburn said changes to weather patterns have caused him to be concerned about the future of the piers for some time.
‘The piers are three of the most iconic structures in Blackpool and we need to ensure that through local and international collaboration that they remain significant features of the town to be enjoyed by future generations,’ he said.
‘Being included on the watch list offers real opportunities for dialogue with central government as well as other towns, nationally and internationally, that are experiencing the same problems.’
The National Piers Society estimate that 20% of piers are currently ‘at risk’ of being lost.
Chairman, Tim Wardley, said: ‘This is an opportunity for Blackpool to lead the way in a dialogue that has the potential to help other piers across the country and to raise the profile of the difficult situation many of them are in today.’
Joan Humble, chairman of Blackpool Civic Trust said there were particular concerns about the future of the Grade II-listed North Pier, which suffered substantial storm damage in 2013.
‘We have to begin talking about what the future of our piers is for the next 100 years and how we protect them,’ he said.
The 2018 World Monuments Watch calls attention to 25 sites, their challenges, opportunities, and the communities that cherish them. Since 1996, when the biennial Watch was founded with support from American Express, the program has issued a call to action for 814 sites facing daunting threats or compelling opportunities for protection, conservation, and engagement….
… Every summer, generations of working-class Britons used to head for Blackpool, a traditional vacation destination on the Irish Sea coast of England, and the world’s first seaside resort town for the working class. Blackpool’s piers and other attractions were the key to its growth and success. 275,000 visited the North Pier in 1863, the year of its opening, and its popularity led to the construction of two more piers by the end of the nineteenth century, using innovative engineering techniques. Today, they remain open and constitute the finest assemblage of seaside piers in the country. Recent surveys show that a walk on a pier is the most popular activity for visitors to the British seaside, including the 17 million who visit Blackpool every year. Blackpool’s primacy as a destination diminished as international travel became broadly accessible in recent decades, but the city is experiencing a rebirth thanks to new public and private investment following a carefully designed 2003 master plan.
As a coastal community, today Blackpool must contend with sea-level rise, one of the most dangerous and unavoidable impacts of global climate change. Sea-level rise is set to exacerbate the impact of storm surge caused by extreme weather events, which are themselves becoming more frequent. Current best-case scenarios still predict several feet of sea-level rise, in spite of the uncertainty involved. Even though the Blackpool waterfront was recently protected against flooding with the construction of a new, award-winning sea wall, the piers remain vulnerable, as they reach hundreds of meters into the sea. Privately owned, they are ineligible to receive public funding for rehabilitation. Through the 2018 World Monuments Watch, World Monuments Fund will work together with the Blackpool Council and the private owners of the piers to expand dialogue, explore new models for the rehabilitation of the piers, and celebrate the heritage of the world’s first working-class seaside resort.