Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
nov17 600

Hastings pier

Business as usual as pier funder is sought

Hastings pier remains open and will host events this year while the administrators continue their search for a new funder or owner. But whatever its future, most creditors have virtually no prospect of getting their money back. Nick Terdre reports.

With funding in place to keep it in operation until November, Hastings’ award-winning pier continues to welcome the public. A full programme of events is being planned by the owner, Hastings Pier Charity (HPC), including an exhibition of Victorian automata by Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, six outdoor markets, three outdoor cinema screenings, a concert featuring One Inch Badge and the Pier Jam clubbing event. Further details and dates will be released when these events have been firmed up.

The pier is also due to play a role in Pirate Day, which will be held partly on the Stade, on Sunday 15 July. In the meantime there are yoga classes on Mondays and Fridays which will continue to the beginning of April, and private bookings may be made for parties and weddings.

Meanwhile Adam Stephens and Finbarr O’Connell, insolvency practitioners at accountancy firm Smith & Williamson, who were appointed as administrators in November, are working to secure the pier’s future.

“Our focus is very much on finding a new funder to give the pier a long-term future,” Mr Stephens told HOT. His preferred option is to find a backer who will allow ownership of the pier to remain with HPC, or failing that, a buyer who will assume ownership of the pier.

Extensive conversations have been held with several parties and concurrent with that a marketing campaign for the sale of the pier as a going concern is under way. Mr Stephens urged any HOT readers possessing the necessary wherewithal and interested in rescuing the pier to get in touch via the administrators’ appointed agents, GVA Grimley, who have experience of dealing with other piers.

Loss-making from the start

After the pier reopened in April 2016, it soon became apparent that HPC’s business plan was not working – by the end of that year, a loss of £314,000 had been clocked up, according to a report circulated to creditors and community shareholders. Poor weather played its part, causing the cancellation of some events and reducing footfall, even though such disruption must be a predictable factor for any British pier.

Despite additional finance being granted in 2017, by September emergency short-term funding of £140,000 was required to see the pier through to the end of the year. However, the longer-term funding required to put HPC’s rescue plan into action was not forthcoming.

Instead the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed to provide some £400,000 of funding to keep the pier in operation until next November. HLF is now the main creditor, being owed a fixed charge of some £14 million – this is related to the value of the grant it made to pay for the bulk of the restoration. Any proposed sale would have to be sanctioned by HLF.

However, the administrators warn that most creditors have little prospect of getting their money back. Any recovery is likely to be significantly less than the sum due to HLF, leaving nothing over either for secured creditors (employees owed some £16,520 in lieu of untaken holidays) and unsecured creditors who are owed an estimated £500,000.

Community shareholders, who contributed some £600,000 (and were told they might receive a dividend at some future time), will also find lose their investment.

If no funder is found or sale arranged, the pier will close, HPC will be wound up and ownership of the structure is likely to pass to a state or public body.

Council’s compensation bill

Meanwhile the amount of compensation Hastings Borough Council will have to pay for business losses suffered by the operator of a bingo hall and amusement arcade following its decision to close the pier for health and safety reasons in 2006 remains unknown. The council fought all the way to the Supreme Court to have the compensation order overturned but lost its final appeal in 2016.

An HBC spokesman declined to say whether the amount of compensation, which was to be decided by an arbitrator, has been fixed. “The pier settlement details have not yet been made public, and we have no idea when (or even if) they might be,” he told HOT.

The council also faces a large bill for legal costs.

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Posted 19:09 Saturday, Jan 27, 2018 In: Home Ground


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Nick Terdre

    The following message about a meeting for pier supporters and shareholders this Saturday has been posted on HOT’s FB page by Lesley Davis:
    “We’re going ahead with the pier meeting on Sat 3rd Feb at White Rock Theatre Sussex Rooms, 2.30pm. Spread the word to active or wannabe-active shareholders and supporters.
    This will be an informal get-together, update/sharing of what we know, and forward planning. We could aim for a big meeting, widely advertised, in a couple of months time. For now everyone is welcome – we are whoever steps forward. My main aim personally is to make sure the shareholders have a proper opportunity to influence the decision-making for our pier.
    Hope to see lots of you there.”

    Comment by Nick Terdre — Thursday, Feb 1, 2018 @ 20:39

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    Tacky, seaside pier related trappings do sell and those who turned their noses up at the idea of making our pier a traditional pier are now witnessing the result of their misdirected snobbery. And who really wants to battle the elements on this wide open space with the inclement weather we experience in this country? Nope – bad idea all round. Our pier is innovative and deserved all the praises and awards but this won’t put money in the tills.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Thursday, Feb 1, 2018 @ 17:12

  3. DAR

    Yes, what a shame. I’m not going to cry over a lost £100, but I might if the pier closes! Despite the plaudits and award, I think it was a mistake not to have a solid and sizeable indoor space (like the old ballroom)….after all,it’s in England, not somewhere the sun shines most of the time.

    Comment by DAR — Thursday, Feb 1, 2018 @ 14:17

  4. Patrick Burton

    Very sad but predictable. Who was consulted from the business or entertainment world?
    It was the plan for the pier in the first place.
    Very cool and beautiful, wide open spaces, but….. the only entertainment open to the elements… on a pier, in Britain!
    Nothing regular on the pier to do or spend money on, except for a cuppa and cake, some boring souvenirs or something from a wooden shed (not in the original plan). Very expensive ‘amusements’ in the summer months.
    The Victorians knew about piers and how to make them pay; covered entertainment at the end of the pier and lots of attractions on the way for you to spend your money on.
    Go to Southwold to see a good example of a modern pier
    Lets hope somebody wants to buy it and finds a way of making it pay, like in Eastbourne

    Comment by Patrick Burton — Thursday, Feb 1, 2018 @ 14:01

  5. Ms.Doubtfire

    Serious situation here. How coulc this happen after all the support and funding given? What went wrong with the business plan which was presented (and accepted) to the Heritage Lottery Fund before the grant was given?
    Something is seriously wrong here. A very sad day for Hastings. How can we possibly own £14m to the Heritage Lottery Fund? Plus all the other debts? And what about this compensation fiasco? There are far too many questions with no plausible answers. I just hope our wonderful pier is rescued before it is too late. An unbelievable situation.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Jan 30, 2018 @ 13:02

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