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Calls for modern pier to be a symbol for Brighton

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The Heritage Lottery Fund's (HLF) refusal to pay £15 million for the rebuilding of Brighton's arsonhit West Pier should trigger an international competition for the site. A coalition of RIBA president George Ferguson, architectural writer and former councillor Chris Morley and urban consultant Richard Coleman have demanded the council and landowners use the site to reflect the architectural transformation of the city.

The practice behind the existing scheme, KSS, has admitted that the HLF's decision signals the end for its project. Director David Kierle agreed that a modern pier is now the most likely option.

Coleman called on local planners to launch a competition using the scheme unveiled by London-based practice Aros last May as an exemplar (AJ 29.5.03).

'The great tragedy is that the future of the pier may be decreed by illegal doings. The parallel of course is the Baltic Exchange site in London, which was blown up by the IRA, ' he said.

'The powers that be agreed that something quite fantastic from today could be good enough to replace it and, as a result, the Swiss Re Tower was built, ' he added. 'I think the West Pier has got to this stage.'

Ferguson - who courted widespread controversy last year with comments on the pier's future (AJ 9.1.03) - agreed. 'My first reaction is that news of the old pier's demise is sad, ' he said. 'But it should now be seen as an opportunity.

'A creative response would be to develop a 21st century pier to create a new symbol for the city, ' Ferguson added. 'It would be exciting to use it to demonstrate aspects of modern design such as harnessing the power of the sea.'

However, English Heritage has attacked the idea of demolishing what is left of the storm and fireravaged structure, calling on Brighton council to find the cash itself to rebuild the Grade-I listed pier.

Director Simon Thurley said: 'The West Pier is more than just a tourist attraction. Purely in design and engineering terms, we believe it is the most important pleasure pier ever built.

'It is for this reason that English Heritage will be doing everything in its power to find the partners and funding necessary to give the pier a future.'

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