THE daughter of a tireless fundraiser said staging the annual Mumbles raft race in support of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) felt “unpalatable” because the all-weather lifeboat station at the end Mumbles Pier had been out of action for months.
Jane Anderson called on the pier owners and the RNLI to find a way forward after the lifeboat charity relocated its Tamar-class vessel from the boathouse, where visitors can normally get a close-up look, to a mooring in the sea nearby.
The RNLI said it had taken the decision after a structural engineer inspection in January identified issues with the pier structure. The charity also closed its visitor centre and shop adjacent to where the lifeboat is usually kept.
It said the effect on lifeboat operations was minimal and that it was working closely with Ameco, the owners of the pier, on the long-term future. Ameco said it was hopeful of restarting a two decade-long restoration of the pier early next year.
Mrs Anderson said volunteers like her late father, Bill Barrington, had raised large sums of money for the £11.7 million boathouse and £2.7 million Tamar-class vessel, but that further fundraising for the Mumbles RNLI at the raft race on August 6 didn’t feel right.
“The local community and volunteers are helpless and after five months, it has became the norm to see the lifeboat in the water,” she said.
Mrs Anderson, of Mumbles, stressed that she normally backed the raft race and that her daughter, Rebecca, had also raised money for the lifeboat station when it opened nine years ago. But she said it felt “unpalatable” this time round due to the ongoing issues, and that she was “astounded” it would take place.
Mrs Anderson said RNLI volunteers who normally worked in the visitor centre and shop were trying to do their best from a stall by the inshore lifeboat station some 300 metres from the pier. “I find the whole thing bizarre,” she said.
The RNLI said it had closed its visitor centre and shop to the public as a precautionary measure in January, following the pier survey. It said Ameco then closed that section of the pier, which led to the RNLI putting in plans to ensure its crew could access the lifeboat without pier access.
An RNLI spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with the pier owner to discuss the long-term future of the pier. Access was provided for the crew to reach the station via a gate, however we need to understand all safety implications before returning the Mumbles lifeboat to the boathouse.”
The crew currently gets to and from the 16-metre lifeboat in a smaller D-class vessel. This is a separate D-class lifeboat to the one which is carried by the all-weather vessel and which remains operational.
The RNLI spokeswoman added that the effect on rescue operations compared to the normal slipway launch was minimal and that it remained hopeful it would return the all-weather lifeboat to the station in the “very near future”.
She added: “The Mumbles raft race is a hugely popular event is well supported locally, for which we are incredibly grateful. As a charity, we rely on such events to ensure our volunteer crew can continue to save lives at sea.”
Fred Bollom, the co-owner of the grade two-listed pier, said: “As we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the pier this year, we want to see this historic structure back open as much as anyone else, so we have worked very hard to ensure the restoration will continue as soon as possible next year.”
This, he said, was despite Ameco being turned down for a capital funding grant by Welsh heritage body Cadw.
Mr Bollom said more than £16 million had been spent on the pier since its renovation began in 2003.
“We are continuing to work closely with the RNLI on this journey, and we look forward to working with them over the coming months to ensure the long-term future of the pier,” he said.
Ameco has planning permission for new visitor accommodation on the headland by the pier, plus flats on the strip of land between the pier and the inshore lifeboat station.
The former Cinderella’s nightclub building where the visitor accommodation is to take shape was gutted by fire last summer. The adjacent Copperfish takeaway restaurant was also ruined.
Mr Bollom said: “The imminent reopening of our Copperfish takeaway this summer, and the restaurant, which is due to open this winter, will help generate the lost income we need in order to continue funding the pier restoration.”