Plan to preserve, protect and transform pier home to Mayflower Steps

Jun 13, 2019

Plymouth’s West Pier, home to the world famous Mayflower Steps, could be transformed as part of an extensive rejuvenation programme designed to preserve, protect and strengthen it for next 100 years.

The historic pier looks set to get a major makeover which will shine a spotlight on the globally significant space as well as enable the city to make more of the incredible world-changing journeys that started from Plymouth.

A planning application has been submitted which sets out how the listed structure could be transformed to become a more fitting focus for the Mayflower commemorations in 2020, while providing a more friendly space, accessible by residents and visitors alike. New street furniture and lighting is on the cards and the design includes more vantage points, with a new clear balcony on the sea side of the pier.

It will also be the starting point for two trails that will enable visitors and local people to follow the Mayflower story in all its glory around the Barbican and the city. 

Mayflower Steps Plymouth

Key elements of the planning application are:

• Structural repairs which will involve removing the surface of the pier
• Installation of foundations for future flood defence improvements
• New coordinated street furniture and lighting – natural stone seating and lighting columns will run along the pier’s north side and will include street furniture needed for events, such as power supply points, waste bins, bollards and a drinking fountain
• A new cantilevered balcony at the east end of the pier for people to get a cracking view of the Sound and Mountbatten
• A new scheme of interpretation highlighting the story of Plymouth as a key point of departure for the Mayflower and over the centuries.

The project, if granted planning permission, could see the ‘Prawn on the Barbican’ – or the Leviathan as it is officially called – moved to allow restoration works on the historic pier to take place.

Barbican Prawn Plymouth

The landmark was erected in 1996 but investigations revealed repair and stabilisation work is needed for the pier, meaning the structure will have to be moved, with a number of sites being considered as its new home.

Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans has also confirmed the historic cobbles will stay on West Pier as part of the restoration project.

He said: “For a small pier it has an incredibly important history – not just for the city of Plymouth but the world. This is home to the Mayflower Steps, it is where our trails will start from and a place which has many visitors. We need to make it more welcoming and accessible for residents and visitors alike.

“It’s fair to say that the work is more than originally anticipated as routine inspections showed more damage and decay to the interior of the pier than expected.

“As well as stabilising the structure, we have been working with the Environment Agency on a plan to install foundations for a future flood defence scheme to protect Sutton Harbour and the Barbican businesses and residents for the next 100 years.”

Mayflower Steps, Plymouth

Sarah Gibson, Waterfront Manager and Chief Executive of the Plymouth Waterfront Partnership said “Our spectacular Waterfront hosts a vast range of heritage assets of national interest and it’s important these are cherished and preserved. With the Mayflower 400 commemorations providing a fantastic opportunity to showcase we’re delighted that Plymouth City Council is seeking to invest in conservation work within the Waterfront area and we look forward to reviewing this planning application.”

Stonemasons have been on site since last summer to restore the historic Mayflower Steps – replacing worn out slabs with beautiful Cornish stone from the Royal William Yard.

An historic environmental specialist has been working closely with the team to ensure the repair work respected the Grade II listed steps.

The portico which commemorates the sailing of the Mayflower was built in 1934 has significantly eroded due to the salty air and wind is also being dismantled ahead of conserve and repair work.

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