A judge in Bristol has indicated that he is likely to rule in favour of the owners of Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier in a case linked to the fire which destroyed the attraction four years ago.
A case involving one of the security firms which was responsible for the Grand Pier’s fire alarms was heard last week at the Mercantile Credit Court in Bristol.
The pier’s owners, Kerry and Michelle Michael, have sued Yeoman Monitoring Services and System 2 Security for £39 million in damages following the blaze, which made headlines around the world.
The contract to monitor the alarms was sub-contracted to Yeoman Monitoring Services and the Essex-based firm has come to an out-of-court settlement with the owners of the pier.
No details of the agreement were made public but the damages were thought to run in to millions of pounds.
Meanwhile, System 2 Security, which was based in Weston, has announced it is going into liquidation.
Even if the judgment goes in the Michaels’ favour, the brother and sister entrepreneurs will struggle to recover the damages from the firm.
But the Michaels have been keen to win the case to prove publicly that they were not at fault for the fire.
The pier owners served papers on Yeoman Monitoring Services, which was responsible for monitoring the pier’s fire alarm system – claiming the fire alarm first went off at the pier at 1.35am on July 28, 2008. No 999 calls were made until nearly 7am. By the time firefighters arrived the blaze had taken hold and there was nothing that could be done to save the Victorian structure.
At the time of the blaze the owners claimed the alarm was remotely suspended multiple times by Yeoman Monitoring Services for up to four hours at a time.
During last week’s hearing it was indicated by the judge, His Honour Judge Havelock-Allan, that the claim would go in the Grand Pier owners’ favour.
A final ruling on the case is expected to be made in the new year.
The Michaels have claimed the Grade II-listed pavilion, which was protected by English Heritage, could have been saved if the alarm had been raised earlier.
Such was the intensity of the blaze it took fire crews more than two days to bring it under control.
By that time the listed structure was almost completely destroyed.
According to the papers filed in court: “The fire was of course in a much more advanced state than it would have been if the fire service had been called to attend shortly after the fire alarm was first triggered.
“The pavilion on the pier was irretrievably set alight and was entirely lost to the fire.
“It is of the essence with a fire alarm that any triggering of it cannot be ignored and has to be addressed immediately, not least due to the risk of injury to individuals and extensive damage to property.”
The pier – one of the South West’s most recognisable and bankable landmarks – reopened for business two years after the fire following an investment of nearly £50 million by the owners.
The attraction has proved to be a huge success and around four million people visit the pier every year.
The Michaels bought the pier for £12 million, only to see it burnt to the ground less than six months later.
The family spent more than £40 million on bringing the attraction back to life with the addition of a new pavilion, fairground rides and attractions.