Pier insurance row rumbles on
A council leader has sought to clarify the situation over the non-insurance of Fleetwood Pier after a controversial apartments scheme was granted planning permission.
The plans by Simmo Developments to build 55 apartments for the over 55s on the former pier site were granted by planners last week, but the result led to outrage among protesters from Fleetwood.
Some of the campaigners said the failure by Simmo’s Mike Simmons, the leaseholder of the site, to insure the Fleetwood Pier building meant the council should have cancelled the lease after the pier burned down in 2008.
Councillor Steve Clarke, a Lancashire County Council member from Fleetwood, said: “The pier was not insured when it burned down, so why were Simmo allowed to keep the lease? It is an outrage that we lost the pier and now we are saddled with these flats.”
But Councillor Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council, said: “The situation over the pier leases is very complicated because there is not just one lease, there are six. The lease that covered the actual pier area was issued in 1906 by the Fleetwood Urban District Council and does not include any covenant for insurance.
“If we had tried to take any action over Mr Simmons we would have needed to prove a loss of earnings to the council, but as he continued to pay his lease, we would never be able to show that.”
Mr Simmons, aka known as comedian Joey Blower, paid £500,000 for the pier in 2007 but after it burned down the following year, he said he could not afford to pay both the lease and the insurance, so he did not pay the insurance which he said was £35,000 a year.
At that time, Coun Gibson said: “When the pier and surrounding buildings burnt down, three of the six leases had covenants for insurance.
“They were ground leases for the buildings attached to the pier and not related to the pier itself.
“This situation has been fully been explained on many occasions and Wyre has done everything we can.
“We will cooperate fully in any complaints made to the Ombudsman and are confident that any investigations made will demonstrate that Wyre Council acted responsibly and in the best interests of taxpayers.”
Since the pier burned down, Simmo Developments have made several attempts to build on the pier site.
A hotel scheme was turned down by planners before a smaller hotel was given outline planning permission.
Nothing came of that scheme but then Simmo returned with the apartments scheme in January.
When this plan was refused, Simmo immediately put in slightly revised plans, just a few feet shorter than the application which was refused.
And at Wyre Civic Centre last week, this scheme was controversially granted.
Protesters say that the scheme will ruin Fleetwood seafront, encourage other developers to build along the coast and warn that the apartments building will be at serious risk of flooding.
Concerns have also been raised that the additional retail element to the flats scheme could undermine Fleetewood struggling town centre.
Mr Simmons was unavailable for comment.