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Fears for Herne Bay's pier head precariously propped up by plywood

Shocking pictures revealing the derelict state of Herne Bay’s iconic pier head have sparked fears it may “not make it through the winter”.

The roof of the dome, which sits atop the structure, is leaning to one side and appears to be propped up by a single piece of timber.

Sonja Earl says a part of the dome on the pier head can be seen being propped up by a piece of wood. Picture: Pete Stanley - Pete's Photography (16011564)
Sonja Earl says a part of the dome on the pier head can be seen being propped up by a piece of wood. Picture: Pete Stanley - Pete's Photography (16011564)

And photographer Sonja Earl, who paddle-boarded out to the pier head last week, believes more needs to be done to preserve the ageing edifice.

“I hadn’t been out there for about five years,” she says. “But when I went out this time, I just couldn’t believe how much it’s fallen down. It’s a lot worse than it was before.

“Someone has propped up the roof of the dome with some plywood and stuff has fallen off around it. It’s leaning and if we get strong winds this winter I reckon that piece of wood won’t hold the whole thing up.”

The old pier, built in 1895, was once stretched out more than 3,700 feet.

During the Second World War its centre was blown up to prevent enemy landings. It was later replaced by two temporary bridges, but its head was left stranded after storms in the 1970s caused them to collapse.

Sonja Earl believes more should be done to protect the pier head. Picture: Sonja Earl (16012222)
Sonja Earl believes more should be done to protect the pier head. Picture: Sonja Earl (16012222)

Ms Earl believes it should be protected because of its historical significance.

“To think it used to be part of the second-longest pier in the country, it seems a shame that it’s been left to ruin,” the 42-year-old from Hampton said.

“So many artists, photographers, embroiderers and sculptors draw on it for inspiration.”

Canterbury City Council, which is responsible for the landmark, will consider options to extend the life of the dome this autumn, according to spokesman Leo Whitlock. However, the cost of any potential work on the head is not yet known.

He said: “The dome itself is deteriorating and we intend to investigate options this autumn to prolong its life. Budget would need to be found for this and costs are not yet known.

Sonja Earl
Sonja Earl

"Full structural surveys take place every two years with the next one planned for summer 2020. We also carry out regular visual checks with the last one in May.

“The steel substructure of the central and southern section, which supports the timber decking and iconic dome, appears to be, from the recent visual inspection, in a reasonable condition with a level of corrosion and deterioration you would expect for a structure of its age with no routine maintenance.”

The Herne Bay Pier Trust, which runs the section of the landmark still connected to the land, announced in May ambitious multi-million pound plans to extend it beyond Neptune’s Arm.

Calls have regularly been made over the years for it to be extended to its abandoned head.

But Mr Whitlock says the local authority is unable to fund the work, adding: “The issue of the grand vision to connect the pier head and land section comes up from time to time and our position on this has remained consistent for many years.

'The dome itself is deteriorating and we intend to investigate options this autumn to prolong its life' - city council spokesman Leo Whitlock

“We do not have the money to carry out this hugely expensive and complex project but would always be willing to listen to credible and financially viable ideas from the community.”

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