It’s been a whirlwind of activity at Shotley in Suffolk since the summer of 2016, when locals rallied to support the formation of a community benefit society to buy the derelict Shotley Pier.
As founding chair, it was a pleasure for me to introduce local people to the framework of a co-operative, with “one member, one vote” being immediately appealing to the locals who worried that outsiders could control the pier for their own ends.
The CBS formed on 13 December 2016 with 33 founding members, and a volunteer group of 50, and was delighted to be offered support from Community Shares Booster fund administered by Co-operatives UK, meaning that every £1 invested attracts a £1 investment from Power to Change, up to a maximum of £100,000.
The share offer will launch with existing pledges from more than 150 local people to buy £35,000 in shares. Add in the attraction of crowdfunding and the group believes it will quickly reach the first target of £100,000 to buy the pier.
The detailed specialist survey shows that the renovations will cost about £300,000, so the next stage will be raising £350,000 for working capital. The renovation work may need to be staged.
The group gained an economic development grant from Babergh District Council, and an apprenticeship scheme to improve skills is being designed as part of the business plan.
The 600ft pier was built more than 120 years ago as a working facility for fishermen, the Royal Navy HMS Ganges, and sundry boat users.
The group want to bring it back into working use rather than just for leisure leisure pier, although people will have access for strolls, leisure fishing, art and photography.
There is also scope for retail use when the lapsed planning permission for two small kiosks is renewed.
Online trading is likely to be a significant income stream, with many thousands of people having a link to the history of the pier.
Unusually, the pier does not face out to sea, with Shotley located directly opposite Harwich on the River Stour, overlooking busy shipping lanes. This means there ever-changing views, with constant activity from large and small ships and rigs.
The directors bring a range of skills, from civil engineering, engineering project management, community development, insurance underwriting, retail experience and fishing experience.
The community share offer launches very soon, so look out for it on www.crowdfunder.co.uk or visit www.shotleypier.co.uk for full details of the share offer. For those who are interested in co-operative governance, www.shotleyheritage.co.uk is the parent website with the history and constitution.
The CBS board has admitted to having far too much fun so far, with an art auction, several pub quiz nights and steering group meetings taking place at the Bristol Arms opposite the pier.
Shotley Pier has its own YouTube Channel with clips including stunning drone flight footage over the pier and passing shipping. The Facebook page shows incredible sunsets and light over the pier area, with many historic photos and comments.