Shareholders divided over design of multi-million pound pier revamp
PUBLISHED: 07:29 17 December 2018
Shareholders in Shotley's iconic Victorian pier are voting on its future design - but some feel they are being ignored.
Shotley Heritage Charitable Community Benefit Society bought the seaside attraction in 2017.
Bosses organisation are inviting over 500 shareholders to vote on different design aspects of a future plan – starting with a roof for a proposed visitor centre.
In September 2018, planning permission for the multi-million pound pier – including an 84-seater cafe and heritage display either side of the existing structure – was rejected by a planning committee. An appeal is ongoing.
Why are the shareholders disagreeing with each other?
Some shareholders reportedly feel there should not be a visitor centre at all and that a different, traditional design put forward at the groups last AGM in November should be acted upon.
The traditional version received positive support by a show of hands at the meeting, but was not officially adopted as the group’s plan.
Directors are now proposing a scaled-down version of the original plans, which were unveiled on December 12.
However, this means that there is now support for two different designs – and shareholders who like the traditional design have raised concerns.
Who is supporting the current design?
Sally Chicken, vice-chairman of the group, is backing the directors’ design and believes the pier will benefit from additions of a cafe and visitor centre.
“We have had around 50 of over 500 shareholders respond with their thoughts in just the first few days which is great,” she said.
“I think that taking the time to let our members vote on aspects of it is a good thing, to hear what they have to say on this and we will take all this into consideration.
“It would be easier if we could just win the appeal for the first plan but we look forward to seeing how people vote on the roof.”
John Davitt, chairman of the group, said: “Since September we have been looking at how we can compromise and asking our investors and neighbours for their input.
“We look forward to seeing which roof design appeals most to our investors.”
The plans set out by the directors are designed to meet three criteria they believe are most important – the pier will be free, have step-free access, and will be kept clear of buildings and groups of people (such as anglers).
Shareholders can vote for one of four different roof styles for the visitor centre by post, phone or email until Saturday, January 5, 2019.
More elements of the design, including the length of some of the proposed buildings, will be voted on in 2019.
Who is against the current design?
Shareholder Derek Davis prefers the unofficial traditional design, which he says maintains the pier’s Victorian identity.
“At the AGM the alternative design presented by director Barrie Powell was well received – people liked it and voted for it.
“Now the directors have come out with another new plan which they like but we didn’t see at the meeting.
“They say we can vote for which kind of roof we want but that wasn’t what we saw at the AGM – the proposal from Barrie Powell had smaller, symmetrical buildings.”
One shareholder, who asked to be anonymous, said: “The first plan was subject to planning approval and failed. Barrie developed his plan and it received rave reviews at the last AGM.
He also claimed: “The only significant change from the failed application is in the reduced size of the buildings.”