THE owners of Clacton Pier are ready to celebrate 15 years at the helm of Europe’s largest pleasure pier.

Billy and Elliot Ball took over Clacton Pier on March 16, 2009, and have steered the iconic seaside attraction through several stormy waters over the past decade and a half.

Many millions of pounds have been pumped into major improvements including new developments and rides as well as into the maintenance and upkeep of a structure that is almost 153 years old.

Director Billy Ball said it is no exaggeration to describe the 15 years as a roller coaster of a ride.

Billy said: “From the day that Elliot and I were handed the keys and discovered the real state of the attraction to where we are now, it has been a massive challenge.

“That is in no way to detract from the major efforts of those who proceeded with us as each has played such a huge part in simply ensuring the pier is still here and operating."

The brothers were 28 and 25 when they bought the pier from the Harrison family.

Billy added: “We were relatively young, energetic and fully prepared to get stuck in.

"We are still the same men but a little bit older and wiser.

"Our commitment to the business and area remains undiminished and we are still driven to do better.

“We are not regenerating the pier to sell it on – we are in it for the long haul and it has very much become our life from day one.”

He also praised staff, suppliers, contractors, family and friends who have helped make the dream come true.

“There is no possible way that we could have done it without them and their support has been immense and kept us going,” Billy said.

“It might be a cliché, but it has been a real team effort and will always have to be.”

One major ambition for the pair is to transform the Jolly Roger building, built in 1893, into a multi-purpose venue fit for the 21st-century.

Billy said: “With 15 years under our belt we are continuing to plan ahead with new projects always in the pipeline.

“We want it to involve significant community use and when this goes ahead very much depends on the funding being available.

"The challenges continue and we will tackle them in exactly the same way as we always have – head-on!”