John Pugh calls for Council investigation over Southport Pier boards

Liberal Democrat leader John Pugh calls for transparency from Sefton Council as reclaimed boards from Southport Pier appear for sale.
19th February 2024

Local Liberal Democrat leader John Pugh has called on Sefton Council to investigate how reclaimed boards from Southport Pier ended up for sale on the website of an Ormskirk timber yard.

Councillor Pugh has accused the Council of using Southport Pier to fight “a propaganda war to justify their own inertia”. Sefton’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Skills, Cllr Christine Howard, labelled Cllr Pugh’s comments “petty political nonsense”.

Boards from Southport Pier were last week listed for sale on the website of Lawson’s Yard, an Ormskirk-based timber yard, as revealed by OTS News.

A spokesperson for Lawson’s Yard told OTS News they obtained the timber legitimately at the request of a third-party contractor, emphasising the positive aspect of repurposing the wood rather than letting it go to waste in a landfill.

There is no suggestion Lawson’s Yard acted improperly.

Councillor Pugh said: “This makes me very angry as it appears to show Sefton acting with customary secrecy. The current administration have tried to give the impression that the whole Pier is as rotten as a pear and to present the necessary repairs as too awesome to contemplate in current circumstances. It is apparent that much of the wood can be repurposed, restored and reused.

“Even the areas that have been exposed by Sefton’s own investigations show large areas of the sort of sound wood that we’d all have to pay good money for at B&Q.

“Sefton are intent on fighting a propaganda war to justify their own inertia. One moment they are telling us it’s fundamentally unsafe, next minute they’re inviting crowds of college students along it to look at the worst bits. One moment they are telling us the woods rotten, next minute they‘re selling it on.

“Everyone knows that the Pier needs some major restoration and that repairs don’t come cheap, but I have genuine concern that the Council won’t get best value out of the process because it’s not in their mindset currently to be open and transparent on an issue that has become a political hot potato.

“It is, though, more important to get the costings right than the propaganda.”

Cllr Christine Howard, Sefton’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Skills, responded: “It is profoundly disappointing that after we repeatedly said that we’re willing to work with everyone to refurbish Southport Pier, we’re still having to address petty political nonsense.

“Independent experts have clearly documented the need to temporarily close the Pier and subsequently remove unsafe and decayed decking from the structure.

“While the used boards are simply not safe for thousands of people to walk on, there may be alternatives uses for that timber, with obvious financial and environmental benefits to its repurposing. The alternative is the timber going to landfill.

“They categorically cannot be reused for the Pier restoration project and any suggestion to the contrary suggests a lack of understanding of the matter and a failure by the councillor to review the surveys and other information that we have openly shared.

“The irony of being wrongly accused of a lack of transparency, while also lamenting our desire to use these works as a beneficial learning experience for local engineering students to advance their studies, particularly as we look to promote careers for women in the construction sector, is not lost on me.

“If people want to find out more about the ongoing Pier project they can visit I’d encourage the ward councillor to do the same.”