CAMPAIGNERS battling to save Hythe Pier have devised a five-year repair project that could cost as much as £2 million.

Members of the Hythe Pier Heritage Association (HPHA) are determined to reverse what they describe as 25 years of neglect and restore the Victorian structure to its former glory.

Repairs aimed at securing the pier's future for the next three decades are due to start in April next year.

Its follows a major breakthrough for the association, which has successfully applied to be registered as a Community Benefits Society by the Financial Conduct Society.

The move enhances the association's legal standing and will enable it to apply for grants from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The 137-year-old pier is owned by Blue Funnel, which saved Hythe Ferry from closure by taking over from the previous operator ten months ago.

But the HPHA, working in conjunction with Blue Funnel, has taken on the task of raising enough money to refurbish the 700-yard structure.

Campaigners are planning to replace the rails used by the train that takes ferry passengers up and down the pier.

Dubbed the oldest continuously operated public pier train in the world, the narrow gauge line celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, with supporters donning period costume to mark the occasion.

Repairs to the empty and dilapidated buildings at the end of the pier are also proposed, together with improvements to the entrance.

HPHA chairman Peter King said the work was likely to cost between £500,000 and £2 million.

He added: "The pier hasn't had much TLC for about 25 years. It's reasonably sound - there are no safety issues or concerns - but a lot of work will have to be done.

"A great deal of support for the restoration scheme exists in the local community, which has shown a real will for this to happen."

Mr King spoke out after HPHA members gathered at the pier to celebrate the group's new status.

In a message to the association's supporters he said: "This is a breakthrough and will allow us to move forward with the next phase in the project to save Hythe Pier.

"These are exciting times for everyone involved.

"We will now be able to start preparing applications for funding to carry out detailed design development work for the project to restore and redevelop the pier, the buildings, and its famous railway.

"There is much work to be done as we have agreed in principle that the project should commence in April 2019."


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