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Roll up for Ferguson's end-of-the-pier show

So I walked into a storm by suggesting that the West Pier may have reached the end of its useful life! ('Ferguson in Brighton pier storm' AJ 9.1.03).

It won't be the first, or the last, time I simply give an honest answer to a straightforward question. It was certainly no attack on the trust, which has fought valiantly to save the pier, for whom I have nothing but respect, or on the architects who no doubt did what was right at the time.

I have very happy childhood memories of the pier, and having seen it last summer in what can only be described as a wretched and rusting reminder of its former glory, I was not surprised that it finally gave way at the knees.

I care deeply about our built heritage, and am sure that if I had been in Brighton in the 1980s I would have been at the forefront of the rescue bid. Since then, time, neglect and the elements have taken their toll.

It may be that the great end of the pier can largely be retained, and be linked to the shore with an appropriately elegant new structure that does something more relevant for future visitors and the sustainability agenda. However, to reproduce the whole design would, to my mind, be a mistake, especially as it would be eating into the limited resources available for historic buildings that do retain their integrity.

By the way, I did not talk of the 'hand of God', but 'an act of God', as defined by the insurance industry. You might think from some of the reaction that I had pushed it over!

George Ferguson, RIBA presidentelect, Acanthus Ferguson Mann

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