PLANS to restore the 140-year Hythe Pier to its former glory have received a major boost.

The 700-yard pier - said to be the seventh longest in the UK - has been awarded listed building status by Historic England.

The move will help Hythe Pier Heritage Association (HPHA) secure the funds needed to refurbish the pier and its narrow gauge electric railway.

A HPHA spokesperson said: "Listing marks a building’s significance and celebrates its special architectural and historic interest. It brings specific protection so that its special interest can be properly considered in managing its future."

The pier was built at a cost of £7,700 and officially opened on January 1, 1881.

Its construction enabled people living in the Waterside area to access the Hythe-Southampton ferry service at all states of the tide and in all weathers.

It quickly became the focal point of the village, with promenading, fishing and bathing becoming popular pastimes.

Buildings at the end of the pier were used by Hythe Sailing Club, which had instigated a regatta that attracted large crowds. After the First World War, the Royal Motor Yacht Club extended one of the buildings to include dining facilities, sleeping quarters and a bathroom.

A cafe operated in what is now the waiting room until late 1980s. Both buildings are now Grade II-listed along with the pier itself.

The railway that takes passengers to and from the ferry was opened in 1922 using locomotives advertised in a War Office catalogue of redundant stock.

Hythe historian Alan Titheridge has recently published a book called The Heartbeat of Hythe – The Story of the Hythe Pier Railway.

He said: "The train has had its ups and downs throughout its history including mechanical failures, derailments, and threats of disposal. It has carried many celebrity passengers as well as acting in the roles of ambulance, fire engine and wedding carriage."

Members of HPHA have embarked in a project to restore the railway, which will celebrate its centenary in July next year.

An Historic England spokesperson said: "The pierhead buildings have good architectural detailing, and the pier’s well-surviving steel and cast-iron substructure, slender columns and cross bracing make it a strong example of a late 19th-century pier with a touch of elegance.

"The electric railway is still running today and is believed to be the oldest continuously operating public pier train in the world."