New pier gates are a glimmering success

Coun. John Kelly at the completed new gates to Roker Pier .
Coun. John Kelly at the completed new gates to Roker Pier .
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GLINTING in the winter sun, Roker Pier’s new gates have taken pride of place at Sunderland seafront.

Work is now complete on the installation of the landmark gates, which feature polished stainless steel posts and toughened glass panels to capture and reflect natural light.

The old “prison-like” gates had also been torn out, along with old iron fencing which council chiefs felt let the Grade II-listed pier down.

John Kelly, senior councillor for culture in Sunderland, said: “People who took part in the consultation were really enthusiastic about new gates to improve the appearance of the pier, and Fiona’s design really captured their imagination.

“Now they’re in place I hope people are going come down to have a look at the gates and the other improvements along the seafront, like the public events space at Holey Rock Corner and the lighting scheme.”

He added: “I think they look fantastic, especially on a day like today.

“We wanted to give the pier a more open feel, and the fencing really didn’t do it any favours. We wanted rid of it, so it’s gone.”

The new pier gates were designed by artist Fiona Heron, and worked-up and fabricated by Washington-based Architectural Metalworkers.

The gate project cost about £75,000, which came from £1million in funding from the CABE Sea Change Fund granted to the council in 2009 to revamp Roker’s Marine Walk.

The council has already launched a new feature lighting system to illuminate the cliffs at Roker.

The pier gates are just one element of plans to regenerate the seafront at Roker and Seaburn, drawn-up after a major public consultation exercise in 2009.

The gates are designed to create an optical illusion of a wave, with the steel and glass catching the light – changing at different angles and times of the day.

They were originally due to be installed last summer. But storm damage to the pier, resulting in its closure for repairs, and high winds in the run up to and after Christmas, delayed their installation until now.

Other improvements planned include new events space; an interpretation trail, giving information on the area and a feature lighting scheme designed by local people, including schoolchildren.

Coun Kelly said he also wants to see more renovation work on the historic pier, which took 18 years to build and opened in 1903.

•Curious Wearsiders have already begun visiting the pier to look at the new gates.

For Ray Dobson, 60, from Tunstall Hope Road, it was a glimpse into the past as well as the future of the seafront.

The retired school teacher had a holiday job opening and closing the gates when he was a student.

“We used to start work at 7.30am, and the first job in the morning would be to open the gates.

“Then we’d head up to the Bungalow Cafe for coffee or breakfast.

“I think the new gates are great, a vast improvement – and it’s good to see them making more of the area.”

Ray and Peggy Bradfield, from South Hylton, checked out the gates while on their regular walk along the seafront.

“They are much better than what we had before,” said Ray, 74, a retired warehouse manager.

“They’re not quite how I thought they would look from the pictures we saw in the Echo – but perhaps the light’s not quite right.

“But I think they look really good, and I think it’s good we’re seeing work being done down here.”

Peggy, 70, a retired auxiliary nurse, added: “I’m just glad to see something’s being done and they’re trying to make it more attractive for people coming in.

“We quite often go to South Shields – they have had a lot done there.”