The Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare is aiming to improve its accessibility by introducing a monthly ‘quiet hour’ for people with autism and other sensory issues.
The pier will open one-hour earlier than usual on the first Sunday in every month, starting on 2 June 2019.
Instead of opening at 10:00, the venue will open at 09:00, and the usual usual background music will be switched off. There will be no tannoy announcements and, where possible, lighting will be reduced on the amusements and attractions.
A pier spokesperson said that the move was the latest in a series of measures introduced in a bid to make the seafront attraction as “accessible as possible to everyone”.
In December 2018, the pier ran early-opening ‘autism hours’ which proved popular with families who might otherwise experience difficulties visiting.
The Grand Pier’s general manager, Tim Moyle, said: “It’s generally quieter on the pier when we first open on a Sunday morning anyway, in terms of visitor numbers.
“But by opening even earlier once a month, it makes the environment even more welcoming for those who experience difficulties with large crowds or too much noise.
“The pier pavilion is naturally noisy by nature, with all the rides, amusement machines, music and flashing lights, and we recognise that this may deter some people from visiting.
“Hopefully the monthly early opening will encourage those who may have been put off in the past from coming to the pier and being able to make the most of all the fun activities on offer in a more inviting and comfortable environment.
“We’re committed to doing whatever we can to ensure that the Grand Pier is a family-focused attraction that truly offers something for everyone and this is another step towards achieving this.”
Deborah Branovits, from Weston-super-Mare, is the mother of a profoundly autistic 11-year-old boy who enjoys visiting the Pier.
She said: “During busier times, like school holidays, the pier is understandably quite busy. There are lots of people and it can be very noisy.
“My son, Matthew, often asks to go onto the pier, but as soon as we get to the pavilion, he sometimes finds the noise overwhelming, clasps his hands to his ears, and makes us turn back straight away.
“It’s a sensory overload for him.
“We took him to Santa’s Grotto during the ‘quiet hour’ in December [last year] and he really enjoyed it. It was so nice for us, as a family, that he was able to enjoy something in the run-up to Christmas that most other children do.
“I was so pleased to hear that the pier is going to do an early opening once a month to make it more tolerable for people like Matthew, who often miss out on fun activities because of their sensory difficulties.”
Details of this scheme, the pier’s Accessibility Guide, and all its rides, attractions and events, can be found on the Grand Pier website.
The Grand Pier Pavilion is the newest in the UK. Opened in 2010, it replaces the previous pavilion, which was destroyed by fire in July 2008.
The new Pavilion has modern function rooms, state-of-the-art business conference facilities, entertainment and event spaces.