Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Sambalanco samba and before the closed gates of the pier on the occasion of the Join the Queue demonstration in January.

Sambalanco samba band before the closed gates of the pier during the Join the Queue demonstration in January.

Yet another date for pier reopening – Monday 1 April

After much toing and froing, a new date for reopening Hastings pier has finally been set – Monday 1 April. In the face of criticism from local MP Amber Rudd and council leader Peter Chowney, pier owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar has issued a defence of his management of the pier. Nick Terdre reports, photos by Cliff van Coevorden.

Mr Gulzar and his management team have kept everyone guessing about when the pier, shut since December, would reopen. Having announced that there would be a postponement from the previously announced date of late March, a new date in May was first mooted.

Such a lengthy further delay did not go down well either with the public or elected representatives – both MP Amber Rudd and council leader Peter Chowney issued critical statements.

Then another new date was announced from pier headquarters – before Easter. And finally this week Mr Gulzar said on the pier’s Facebook page that the pier would reopen on 1 April – April Fools’ Day, though one supposes this is not a joke.

Mr Gulzar took the opportunity to hit back at his critics, saying, “Of course, I was disappointed over the weekend to hear comments of concern from Amber Rudd MP and the council leader Peter Chowney. It was under their watch that the Pier went into administration in the first place.


“I respect them both and their positions, but I really want to hear how they can assist me. They must realise the real challenges of making Hastings Pier viable.”

He asked the community “to bear with him” in his bid to make the iconic site a huge success. “I was, is [sic] and will always be very confident about the successful future of Hastings Pier.

“We have advertised both for staff and people interested in hiring our units at the weekend and we were swamped by the response, which is very pleasing.

“I understand and respect that the people of Hastings want to see the pier open again, and none more so than I. It has been a difficult period but the time for negativity has gone and I must look forward to make this pier a success.”

The pier was originally closed in December to allow repairs, necessitated by a fire in the restaurant, to be carried out. Continuing closure has been attributed to storm damage caused over the weekend of 16-17 March when much of southern England was buffeted by high winds.


On learning that the pier would remain closed until May, Ms Rudd wrote in an open letter: “I am incredibly disappointed that Hastings Pier would not be open for the end of March as originally planned. It is unacceptable if the pier remains closed indefinitely and I cannot support any scenario where this is the case.”

Acknowledging that the extended closure was due to “fresh structural damage,” she said, “I urge the owner of Hastings Pier to conduct these repairs as a priority so that the Pier may open as soon as possible. Our town cannot keep experiencing delay after delay.

“There must also be much improved communication with the Hastings community from the owner. The Pier belongs to our town and we must always remember that.”

Meanwhile council leader Peter Chowney said: “It is frustrating to see this fantastic attraction standing empty. We remain very keen to work with the pier management, but urge them to reconsider their position and reopen the pier as soon as possible, and certainly before the start of the Easter holiday.”

Council leader Peter Chowney, right, and pier owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar on the occasion of the Join the Queue event.

Council leader Peter Chowney, right, and pier owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar on the occasion of the Join the Queue event.

Opportunities lost

He noted that commercial opportunities had been lost while the pier was closed. “We were disappointed when the pier closed suddenly before Christmas, potentially losing out on the lucrative business between Christmas and the New Year.

“Similarly we had a fantastic half term in February, with the temperatures some of the highest ever recorded in winter. The town and our seafront was packed, with several traders saying they’d bettered their summer trading figures on some days. Yet the pier remained closed…

“Easter is likely to be very busy too, especially as it is later this year; normally residents and visitors would flock to the pier then, the traditional start of ‘the season’.”

As it happens, the pier could not have remained closed any later than early May, as the management has now announced that the Pier Jam event will take place on the weekend of 4 and 5 May – tickets can be bought via the FB page. And on Saturday 27 July the pier will play host to the inaugural Hastings Reggae Festival.

Pier spokesman Brett Maclean has also hinted that the reopening might await the delivery of the four kiosks approved by the planning committee earlier this month, which are intended to provide fresh income for the pier. A fifth kiosk, the existing ice cream parlour just inside the gates, was retrospectively approved.

The Friends of Hastings Pier welcomed the MP’s call for “much improved communication with the Hastings community,” saying, “This is one of FOHP’s aims and we are in regular communication with pier spokespeople. We would encourage the owner to be more transparent.”

As Mr Gulzar said, staff are now being recruited – the FB page advertises posts for catering and retail staff and general assistants. However, prospective applicants may think twice in view of fines recently imposed on Mr Gulzar and some of his businesses for the non payment of Pay As You Earn tax and National Insurance contributions, and tribunal cases brought against him by former pier employees for the non payment of wages.

However an assurance has been given by Mr Maclean who previously told HOT that with regard to future Paye and NI payments, “Rest assured this issue will not be repeated for Hastings Pier employees.”


Posted 19:57 Wednesday, Mar 27, 2019 In: Grassroots


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Allan John Peterson

    Happy the pier is open, I have been negative about the owner for closing it but watching him on television yesterday can understand his frustration with Hastings people.
    We need to back him and spend money on there. I have used it at least 3 times a week without spending a penny on the pier. This is no good for the owner. me wearing out the decking slowly.
    Offer good food at a good price with on the spot service people will spend and not eat elsewhere. My daughter came up with a good idea. install a ratchet old style entrance turnstile paying say 50 p or a pound in a coin machine. The kids would love it. all fighting to pay the money in the machine. I personally would happily pay 1 pound to go on the pier at regular visits. If he could get the BIG boys interested in getting on the pier. that would definitely make it a success long term. Companies like Harry Ramsdens for fish and chips or Easy Coffee at 1 pound a cup. A sample of ideas. Good luck to the owner, I like your pier. All the best

    Comment by Allan John Peterson — Tuesday, Apr 2, 2019 @ 19:57

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    Oh come on! We appear to have a counterfeit sheikh and a counterfeit lord here – why pander to their vanities…its all becoming something of a tiresome bore and its our pier we are discussing here. Which brings me to an interesting point – the pier has been closed for three months for essential works – has anyone seen any workmen doing any work during this time????????

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Apr 2, 2019 @ 08:43

  3. Penny

    As I understand it, there has been no ongoing professional maintenance to this structure since its closure. Is it safe now? Since it was originally closed for Health & Safety reasons, then underwent an extremely costly repair, can we be assured that the current conditions meet the required standards?
    Whoever owns it, they must be legally responsible for the public’s safety. I assume that the Administrators made sure of this requirement before handing it over. If they didn’t, are they responsible for negligence in their duties?
    Mr. Gulzar seems concerned about having to spend money on it. Was it not pointed out to him prior to purchase that this would be necessary?
    He may have bitten off more than he can chew if he is unaware of this or unable to do so. All that glitters is proverbially not gold, but a thin veneer of paint in this instance.

    Comment by Penny — Sunday, Mar 31, 2019 @ 22:55

  4. Nick Terdre

    In response to David Stevenson, I understand ‘Sheikh’ is his personal name, so it’s given in the article in that capacity, as David would be in your case. You can tell it’s not given as a title because he is afterwards referred to as ‘Mr Gulzar.’

    Comment by Nick Terdre — Thursday, Mar 28, 2019 @ 15:59

  5. David Stevenson

    As I understand it, the owner is not a genuine Sheikh, so why does the HOT use that title for him? How can he be so naive to say that he is disappointed about the criticism aimed at him? At least the Pier was open under the previous owner, even if it didn’t make any money. He is no better than the overseas owners before the big fire. Will anyone be prepared to work for him given his history of non-payment of bills? If he can’t get any staff it will be his own fault. If I was a betting man, I might predict that the Pier is not open in time for the Reggae Festival, never mind the Pier Jam event, in only 5 weeks time.

    Comment by David Stevenson — Thursday, Mar 28, 2019 @ 12:14

  6. kendal

    ask not what your “millionaire” can do for you but what you can do for your millionaire – so predictable what a bore. even a child could tell this emperor his suit is not ‘new.’

    Comment by kendal — Thursday, Mar 28, 2019 @ 09:02

  7. Ms.Doubtfire

    Mr. Brett Maclean informs residents to “rest assured this issue will not be repeated for Hastings Pier employees..” How can anyone “rest assured” over anything regarding our pier.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Thursday, Mar 28, 2019 @ 08:44

  8. Sunbear

    April 1st. How very appropriate. I hope all Hastings and St Leonards residents read the excellent four page feature on our pier in the national Observer last Sunday (and there are many other articles online in the Guardian too ). The whole pier thing is decidedly…er fishy. So much positive action could be taken and it could build on its brilliance, unique in this country.

    Comment by Sunbear — Wednesday, Mar 27, 2019 @ 23:43

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