WORK is underway to salvage some of the huge coping stones swept off Roker Pier into the sea last month with more then 100 metres of railings.

The  grade II listed pier has been closed since gale force winds and huge waves, breaking as high as the lighthouse itself, washed away the railings and the coping stones they were cemented into over the weekend of 5 and 6 November.

Divers using heavy lifting gear have so far managed to recover more than 35 granite blocks each weighing 2.2 tonnes from the sea around the pier.

The intention is to re-use these once the weather has improved sufficiently for them to be reinstated along with new railings in the spring. 

In the meantime temporary repairs are planned to shore up the damaged section of pier where the railings are missing ahead of permanent repairs.

Structural engineers are also carrying out a full inspection of the entire length of the pier's railings  to see if they have suffered any long term structural damage.

Cabinet Secretary, Councillor Mel Speding, said: "Last month's storm damage came as a real blow to our plan to open the pier for tours. We were due to launch our first tour of the lighthouse the very day we discovered the railings had been washed into the sea. 

"Then when we did manage to get structural engineers onto the pier, we found that more railings than originally thought had been washed away by the sea.

"It's essential that we carry out further tests to gauge the full extent of any long term damage to the railings before we start work on temporary repairs that engineers tell us are needed to prevent any further damage over the winter.

"Then we'll be looking to carry out permanent repairs once the weather has improved sufficiently to get contractors on site in the spring.

"We are still searching for a temporary solution that would allow public tours of the lighthouse to go ahead before then, but we won't know if this is possible until we've completed the full inspection of the railings."