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The pier at midday on Thursday 1 March.

The pier at midday on Thursday 1 March.

Friends react as pier put on sale

News that buyers are being sought for Hastings pier by the administrators has prompted action by the Friends of Hastings Pier, who have applied to have the structure reregistered as a community asset. Nick Terdre reports.

In a recent statement to community shareholders the administrators, Adam Stephens and Finbarr O’Connell of financial services firm Smith & Williamson, say “… we are hard at work talking to some interested parties who think [they] can deliver a secure long-term and viable future for Hastings Pier.”

The talks are confidential and “must by necessity remain private,” they say. In addition they confirm that they are seeking a private buyer: “…we are also conducting a wider marketing campaign of the Pier via our national agents GVA Grimley… Marketing of the Pier will ensure we have done everything possible to generate new leads.”

In January Mr Stephens told HOT that the administrators’ priority was to find a funder who would allow ownership of the pier to remain with Hastings Pier Charity. HOT has been unable to establish if the search for such a backer continues.

Hat in the ring

One potential buyer has broken cover – Sheikh Abid Gulzar, the owner of Eastbourne pier, who spoke to Hastings and St Leonards Observer. He also attended the meeting in early February which decided to reform the Friends of Hastings Pier (FOHP), when he said that his policy in running Eastbourne pier was to cover costs and generate a small surplus for charity.

Luke Johnson, the owner of Brighton pier, has also confirmed holding talks with the administrators.

In a statement the Friends of Hastings Pier (FOHP) say: “The ‘sale’ notice has taken us by surprise. We are disappointed that the Administrator seems to be acting as a Liquidator rather than trying to find long-term community-owned solutions.”

Led by Angela Davis, a trustee of the old Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust, a group of Friends has submitted to the council an application to re-register the pier as an asset of community value – this was first done in 2013 but has to be renewed every five years.

An asset of community value cannot not be disposed of without the nominating group being informed, Jess Steele of FOHP tells HOT. The group can then trigger a six-month moratorium during which it can prepare a competing bid, though the owner or controller of the asset is under no obligation to accept the bid.

This week GVA wrote to Angela Davis to say that if FOHP, or any group of individuals, wished to purchase the pier they should submit a formal offer. They were looking to collate bid proposals in the next couple of weeks, they said.

pier in snow 300Friends seek a partner

FOHP are also seeking a partner to help secure the pier’s future. “We are in discussion with private operators to explore mixed models with community ownership and commercial operation,” they say in a statement.

“We hope that the Administrator will be willing to meet with FOHP spokespeople to discuss this option.”

Since it reformed earlier this month FOHP has mushroomed, with 105 signed-up members and 250 members of its Facebook page. “It is essential that the freehold of the pier is not sold into private ownership to avoid the position it reached by 2006 when it was closed for safety reasons due to neglect by a private owner,” they say.

“We feel it was wrong for the pier to be put into administration without involving the shareholders or giving them a chance to put forward a different option.”

But if a sale were proposed by the administrators, they consider they would still have a say in the matter: “…we believe there would have to be a shareholder vote if the charity’s assets were to be disposed of.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund, which is the pier’s main creditor, would also have to approve any proposed disposal or other new arrangement.

FOHP are planning to hold a meeting for shareholders and other parties, including hopefully the administrators, the Heritage Lottery Fund, local politicians and other funders, at the White Rock Theatre on Monday 23 April.

Events programme takes shape

Meanwhile various events have now been confirmed by HPC, including a one-month exhibition by Cabaret Mechanical Theatre starting on 15 March, a Pier Jam gig on 28 April and Pirate Day on 15 July.

Other events in the pipeline include an Easter market and several other market days during the year, a “barrage” of music events including more Pier Jam gigs, film showings and participation in flagship Hastings celebrations including Jack-in-the-Green and Bonfire Day.



Posted 10:24 Friday, Mar 2, 2018 In: Grassroots


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT
  1. Aurther22222

    £114 million pounds spent and bankrupt soon after. Money could have been far better spent. Maybe on the homeless and stop people dieing on the streets of hastings. Was never going to be a financial success as there is nothing on the pier. I liked the idea the renovation, but it’s just a big open space with no way to create any income. More money being wasted on the Ore Valley power station project. Spend the money on the people who need it. Not the middle class people who cream of the top with ideas that never happen. Spend it on the people that need it.

    Comment by Aurther22222 — Saturday, Mar 10, 2018 @ 19:36

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    A satisfactory business plan was part of the conditions before release of any funds was agreed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and presumably this business plan met the requirements set down by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

    It would be interesting to have sight of this business plan because perhaps therein lies the reason for the failure of the plan to bring forth the required revenue to maintain the running of our pier.
    Where did this plan go wrong?

    What must not happen is a repeat performance – private ownership and then another disaster.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Mar 6, 2018 @ 13:27

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