CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating a major breakthrough in their bid to save Hythe Pier.

The pier has been given to Hythe Pier Heritage Association (HPHA) by Blue Funnel, operators of the passenger ferry service that operates between Hythe and Southampton.

The move could make it easier for the association to secure the grants needed to restore the jetty.

HPHA chairman Peter King said: "We were awarded charitable status last year. It was important we had legal tenure of the pier and that the community owned the asset.

"It's a win-win solution that's really good news."

The pier and the ferry service used to be owned by White Horse Ferries but in April 2017 both assets were sold to Blue Funnel Ferries, which has now gifted the pier to HPHA.

The announcement was made yesterday - 140 years to the day since a license to build a "light pier" was awarded.

Blue Funnel Ferries said the handover would allow work to start on the pier and thus secure its future "for many years to come".

As reported in the Daily Echo, HPHA is drawing up plans to carry out work costing up to £3m over a five-year period.

Mr King said: "We need to protect the structure. We need to complete the re-planking as well as restoring and developing the historic buildings at the pier of the pier which date from the 1920s. We also want to restore the pier railway.

"We're drawing up some exciting plans and I'm confident we can deliver."

The pier opened in 1871 and two locomotives, built in 1917, still run on a narrow gauge railway along its length.

Mr King said the group had a "viable plan to create a sustainable future" for the pier.

"Our vision is to create a vibrant community facility to allow the ferry service to prosper and for the community to reconnect with something which has stood at its heart for more than a century."