Glynn Jones says West Pier is crucial to our heritage

Glynn Jones says the revival of the area around the West Pier is crucial to the ‘string of pearls’ adorning the seafront. Frank le Duc reports

For more than 20 years Glynn Jones has occupied key positions in Brighton and Hove and the surrounding area. Wearing one of his current hats, the former council chief executive shared news last week of a bid for Heritage Lottery Fund money. If successful, the money will part-pay for work on the seafront either side of the West Pier. The bid is due to be submitted this week. Mr Jones was speaking as chairman of the West Pier Trust, a post that he has held for seven years.

In his statement to the trust’s annual meeting he said: “We are working closely with Brighton and Hove City Council on the regeneration and landscaping of the areas either side of the pier. The design will have a strong West Pier theme, using artefacts salvaged from the pier in the 1990s. Included in the scheme will be a restored 1866 kiosk, the subject of a Heritage Lottery Fund bid.”

He said that the scheme would strengthen the trust’s ties with the Fishing Museum. And that it would be a continuation of the council’s strategy for a “string of pearls” to adorn the seafront. He added: “When I came to Brighton, the seafront at night was a place to be avoided. With the ‘string of pearls’, there will be sections of the seafront with a different purpose including iconic buildings and spaces for people to reflect.”

With the prospect of work on the i360 starting soon, he hopes to have played his part in the gestation of another iconic building. He said: “The i360 is a pier in the sky. Just as the original West Pier was outrageously modern, so is this. One of the reasons we’re so keen on it is that it will help regenerate that part of the city. It will shift the focus slightly. And the areas around Regency Square and Preston Street will hope to see their businesses improve.”

Another key reason is that he and his fellow trust members hope that the i360 will help fund a new pier on the water in place of the skeletal ruins of the “Old Lady”. He said: “We’ve already got people talking to us about a sea-based pier. It will be a good contemporary design.” He said that the fires meant that a restoration was now no longer possible and he dismissed talk of a replica, saying: “It wouldn’t be in keeping with tradition. The West Pier, like the Royal Pavilion, was outrageous when it was built. A new pier would need to reflect its age.”

Mr Jones came to Brighton in 1989 when he took over as chief executive of Brighton Borough Council from Tony Blake. Steve Bassam was the council’s Labour leader at the time and once described Mr Jones as “the best appointment I ever made”. Brighton and Hove councils merged with Mr Jones at the helm and he ran the new council until he retired in 2001.

Since then the 67 year old has played many roles in local life including chairman of the NHS trust which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital. “When I arrived there we were performing pretty badly in monetary and other terms.”

Mr Jones appointed Duncan Selbie as chief executive. He said: “It was one of the best performing trusts when I left although that was down to Duncan more than me.” Mr Jones retired from the trust two years ago and Mr Selbie left in the summer to head Public Health England. Candidates to replace Mr Selbie are due to be interviewed shortly.

Mr Jones has kept his links with the Royal Sussex as chairman of the Hospital League of Friends. He is also chairman of the local branch of Emmaus, the homeless charity, and the Hanover Band Trust. In addition he serves as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant. He persuaded his predecessor as chairman of the West Pier Trust, the late Admiral Sir Lindsay Bryson, to take the job. Mr Jones said: “When Lindsay was dying, he said, now it’s your turn.” The members agreed and he continues to serve his turn.

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