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Let’s hear it for Jubilee Pier!

Jubilee Pier is in the news again, this time because it is leaking sewage and South West Water won’t do anything until South Hams District Council (SHDC) makes proper permanent repairs to the pier.

Jubilee Pier is that little structure which sticks out into the harbour besides the Ferry Inn. It has been the site of the East Portlemouth ferry landing stage since the 18th century and became a more solid structure in the 1870s. It is today used by both the EP ferry and the Rivermaid from Kingsbridge.

The pier was enhanced with some kind of memorial light for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. But it started to crumble and was partially pulled down by SHDC (who own it) about eight years ago. They have never found the funds to rebuild it. The people of Salcombe have petitioned for its repair; Salcombe Town Council are making representations to SHDC; and recently the Salcombe sculptor, Jim Martins, wrote an eloquent letter to the Gazette calling for the pier to be repaired.

The issue is that the Jubilee  Pier is not a normal pier. Most piers, like Brighton or Hastings, were built to create access at all states of the tide and became sites for fun fairs, restaurants and other attractions.

Jubilee Pier, by contrast, is a breakwater. It was built to prevent swell coming in from the sea sweeping round into Batson Creek and threatening vessels moored at the quays and (nowadays) the expensive pontoon structures which provide moorings for around 200 boats. The fact that this breakwater also happens to serve as a ferry point is a happy coincidence, but it is not its main function.

That is why it is so much of a problem that it has not been repaired. The Harbour Board is spending serious money upgrading the pontoons – Batson this year and, more than likely, Whitestrand and Normandy not long after – but these new structures will be unnecessarily exposed to the elements because SHDC won’t repair the breakwater. This is an example where the harbour is disadvantaged because it is a municipal port: on this issue, SHDC’s priorities are not the same as the Harbour Board’s.

But the truth is that everybody would benefit from a rebuilt Jubilee Pier: it would be a centrepiece of the harbour, an effective breakwater and an excellent landing stage for ferries. Let’s hope something can be done to bring that about. What about phasing it to use some of the hardcore from the Marine Hotel?

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