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Question raised over ongoing closure of privately-funded Mumbles Pier lifeboat station

Mumbles' Tamar-class lifeboat, seen here, remains moored in the sea (Pic: Richard Youle)

QUESTIONS are being asked why the lifeboat station at the end of Mumbles Pier, which people in the area helped pay for, has remained out of action for more than a year.

Mumbles resident Jane Anderson said she felt answers about when the situation would be resolved, and whether the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) had ensured a right of access when it built the £11 million station in 2014, were needed.

The RNLI has previously said it removed the lifeboat from the station after a structural engineer identified issues with the privately-owned pier structure in January 2023. The £2.7 million Tamar-class lifeboat is moored in the sea a couple of hundred metres from the pier, from where it has launched 20 times. A section of the pier is closed, and crew members reach the vessel from shore in a boarding boat. The RNLI said the impact on operations was minimal.

Mrs Anderson said she has raised her concerns with Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi and Mumbles Community Council. She said she felt like “the bad person here”. She said: “All I’m trying to do is help get the boat back in the lifeboat house.”

The office of Ms Antoniazzi replied to Mrs Anderson last December saying the Labour MP was “passionate” about the issue and that everything was being done to try to move it forward. Mrs Anderson received an email from Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart the same day saying the council hoped to announce some positive pier news in the coming weeks.

“We’re now two months on,” said Mrs Anderson. “Nobody seems prepared to put their neck on the line.”

Mrs Anderson said people in Mumbles had helped to raise money for the lifeboat station and the lifeboat, including her late father Bill Barrington. Referring to the station’s ongoing closure, she said: “The issue is that this money is not being properly used.”

The situation has also led to the RNLI closing its visitor centre and shop at the lifeboat station. The shop operates as a pop-up unit onshore.

Last June the RNLI said it was working closely with the owners of the pier, Ameco, about the pier’s long-term future and that it was hopeful of a return to the lifeboat station in “the very near future”. Ameco, which has closed a section of the 126-year-old pier, said it wanted to reopen it as much as anyone and that a long-term restoration scheme would continue early in 2024.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the RNLI when the lifeboat station would be in use, whether the charity had ensured right of access when it was built, and whether it could say more about the structural issues identified in January 2023.

An RNLI spokeswoman said: “The pier owners have mobilised contractors to undertake some preparation works, in the hope of carrying out some renovation works to the pier. This is obviously a positive step forward for the RNLI and we will continue to work with the pier owners as they look to access the necessary funding for the works to be completed.

“The Mumbles all-weather lifeboat remains fully operational and is being accessed via a boarding boat. We continue to work with the pier owner with a view to returning the lifeboat to its original home.”

She added: “The RNLI has a right of access to our lifeboat on Mumbles pier, however we are not the owners of the pier structure.”

She said the structural report 13 months ago indicated that repairs were needed at the access to the lifeboat station via the pier.

“Reducing footfall to the site by closing the lifeboat station to the public was a precautionary measure taken by the RNLI while monitoring the long-term condition and future of the pier,” she said.

There has been a lifeboat presence in Mumbles for nearly 190 years. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge – now the Prince and Princess of Wales – visited the lifeboat station in 2020. Two years later fire ruined the Copperfish restaurant and former Cinderella’s nightclub building at the landward end of the pier. Copperfish has since reopened and another restaurant – On the Rocks – is taking shape along the pier foreshore.

Asked for an update on the situation, Fred Bollom, of pier owners Ameco, said: “We are in negotiations with the RNLI, the local authority and our funders to secure the pier.

“We are also still waiting for a final resolution on our insurance claim for the Copperfish restaurant, chip shop and night club which burnt down. This will allow us to begin works on the pier whilst we finalise funding with all the stakeholders to ensure we finish what will be a £12 million so far privately-funded renovation project.”

Mumbles councillor Angela O’Connor said it was in the public interest to see the pier reopen and for the lifeboat station on the pier to be fully operational. But she added it was a private matter. She said: “We appreciate the money privately funded to date by the owners, and understand significant investment is needed still.”

She said she and fellow ward councillors Francesca O’Brien and Will Thomas have submitted a formal question to the council to seek further updates as to its input. The council said it had nothing to add at this stage.

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