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Jubilee Pier is getting serious

It is only a few months since I wrote about Jubilee Pier but things are going from bad to worse.

The story so far: Jubilee Pier is the ferry point for the East Portlemouth and Kingsbridge (“Rivermaid”) ferries. It is also the breakwater which defends Salcombe against swell from the sea. The pier has been falling down for ages and was cut back about 10 years ago; but is still falling down. South Hams District Council (SHDC) owns the pier but says it cannot give priority to maintaining it.

The latest development is that SHDC has surveyed the pier and finds that it has been hollowed out so is potentially unsafe. The Victorians built it on the sand without foundations. Saving the pier now is difficult. SHDC wants to take it out of service and petition DEFRA for sea defence money to do some patching; but not restore it as a ferry point.

But taking the pier out of action for ferries is not easy because where do ferries then land? On Normandy quay? Not possible as this can carry only five people per pontoon at any one time. On Whitestrand? That approximately doubles the length of the East Portlemouth ferry route, so increases its costs but reduces its frequency – a double whammy which could threaten the viability of the whole service and cut off East Portlemouth.

What about the Rivermaid? Is it safe for it to manoeuvre into Whitestrand in the height of the season? Can the pontoons bear the weight of 90 passengers disembarking and 90 passengers boarding (almost certainly not)? How can the passengers waiting for the Rivermaid be marshalled separately from those wanting to use the East Portlemouth and South Sands ferries? We are talking Whitestrand here: the pontoon which most people consider to be unacceptably crowded already.

This is not a happy picture. It is possible that the East Portlemouth ferry will be able to scrape through this year using the Jubilee Pier: but it is almost certain that the Rivermaid cannot. There does not seem to be much possibility that SHDC will be able to do much more by next year, after another winter of waves hollowing out the centre of the pier. It all looks very bad: and, of course, until the pier is properly repaired, it will continue to leak raw sewage.

To cap it all, the suggestion which I left with you last November – to reconstruct the pier with handy rubble from the demolished Marine Hotel – is not an option either as the Salcombe Harbour Hotel should be opening afresh by Easter without the need for any demolition.

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