WORKS to develop the historic Heartbreak Pier in Cobh are expected to get underway in the coming weeks.
The 150-year-old derelict pier was famously used by more than one million emigrants as they made their way to Australia and the United States in the 19th and 20th century, including some 123 who departed on the ill-fated Titanic.
The aged pier at the rear of the White Star Line building had fallen into disrepair in recent years, prompting calls locally to restore the structure. Some €500,000 will be spent on the project, which is expected to be completed by March 2019.
Plans submitted by the Titanic Experience Cobh aim to create a new contemporary walkway, incorporating the existing wooden timber into an attraction at the heart of Cork Harbour.
It follows works to stabilise the pier, which took place in January 2016 in conjunction with the Port of Cork and Cork County Council after the pier was purchased by Gillen Joyce, the managing director of the Titanic Experience.
Support for the project has come from a number of nearby tourist attractions, including Fota Wildlife Park, though some concerns have been raised locally.
More than 250 people have signed a petition launched in recent days calling for a rethink on the plans.
The petition, which includes signatures from Australia, the United Kingdom and Spain, as well as all over Ireland, is critical of the design, its impact on the harbour and the inclusion of a viewing kiosk in the nearby Cobh Promenade.
However, the proposal claims to retain access to and the view of as much of the old structure as possible.
“The pier at Cobh as a structure was sure to be lost to the sea, and with it a significant piece of history. Having transformed the White Star Line building, and seen firsthand the impact of the site on visitors as well as the region, we felt passionately about saving ‘Heartbreak Pier’ and ensuring that it would not be lost to the elements,” said Mr Joyce.
“An application to Failte Ireland’s Grant Scheme for Large Tourism Projects really gave this project momentum. We believe Heartbreak Pier to be a valuable asset to Ireland’s Ancient East and are delighted with our successful transition to phase two of our Titanic Connections project. The feedback and support from Failte Ireland has been fundamental in getting the project to the next phase."
Under the plans, access to Heartbreak Pier will be from a gated entryway in the promenade.