VOLUNTEERS striving to restore a Hampshire pier to its former glory have suspended all their activities until the Covid-19 crisis is over.

Hythe Pier Heritage Association (HPHA) is spearheading a campaign to refurbish the 700-yard jetty and the electric train which takes passengers to and from the Hythe-Southampton ferry.

But the association's members, many of whom are elderly, have decided not to carry out any further work for the foreseeable future.

In a message to the local community HPHA chairman Peter King said: "I don’t think anyone could have predicted that we would be in the midst of the biggest single international health crisis we have faced in modern peacetime.

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"Like any responsible organisation we need to take the steps to reduce the risk in what we do in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

"Many of our members, volunteers and supporters are retired and may be more vulnerable at this time. We have therefore decided to suspend all our current activities until this health emergency is over."

Mr King said the restoration of a railway carriage, which involved working with volunteers from Hythe Men's Shed, had been suspended "with immediate effect".

He added: "The pier, the train and the ferry have been here for a very long time. They will still be here when this crisis is over.

"Right now there are more important things to consider, your wellbeing, the health and well-being of your family, your friends and the whole community. This is what matters right now.

"So please stay safe, take care and be assured that we will come together again to meet and enjoy events on the pier and support this project.

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The pier and the ferry service used to be owned by White Horse Ferries but in April 2017 both assets were sold to Blue Funnel Ferries, which later gifted the pier to HPHA.

The move could make it easier for the association to secure the grants needed to restore the 129-year-old jetty.

Last year it was revealed that the HPHA was drawing up plans to carry out work costing up to £3m over a five-year period.

Speaking at the time Mr King said: "Our vision is to create a vibrant community facility to allow the ferry service to prosper and for the community to reconnect with something which has stood at its heart for more than a century."