COUNCIL officials say public safety is "paramount" after a photographer captured images that appear to show landing stages off Bournemouth Pier rotting away.

The images of supports for the jetties either side of the pier appear to show significant water damage.

Bournemouth council is not actively maintaining the jetties due to low demand from sailors looking to dock at the site.

The stages are used extensively by small Navy craft during the Bournemouth Air Festival.

Councillor Pat Oakley, who is responsible for tourism and leisure, said: "The pier is regularly inspected by engineers.

"All year, the council carries out whatever work they recommend is done."

He acknowledged that the Echo's photos "look dramatic", adding: "A big storm, for example, could do huge damage to the pier.

"There is no way we could foresee that or build a structure that could withstand the worst forces of nature from the sea.

"It's a question of balance.

"Our priority is the safety of the public - that is paramount. That is, as always, our main concern."

Earlier this month, Councillor Philip Broadhead answered questions about the jetties at a meeting of the full council.

Cllr Broadhead, who is responsible for economic growth, said officials are “open to the possibility” of hosting vessels on the pier but that rising costs had put off pleasure cruisers.

A freedom of information request to the council earlier this year revealed landing stages had been closed following damage in storms in 2017.

Docking points on the eastern side of the pier are now able to be used. However, Cllr Broadhead said the western side was still “mostly unusable”.

“The pier landing stages remain in use, albeit in a limited capacity, primarily due to the lack of demand for watercraft usage,” he said.

The east side of the pier does have berthing spots available, allowing access for fishing club members.

Modifications were made to the docks in 2015 to accommodate the Waverley Paddle Steamer. Due to the vessel's size, it requires the use of both sides of the pier.

In 2006, major refurbishment work on the pier landing stages was approved by the council.