www.hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk     Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
The pavilion housing the restaurant and bar is the only building which survived the fire.

The pavilion housing the pier’s restaurant and bar is the only building which survived the fire.

New prize and new business plan for the pier

Hastings Pier has been awarded the Royal Institute of British Architecture’s prestigious Stirling prize, the latest in a long line of awards. Despite widespread recognition, however, the pier is having a tough time finding a sustainable financial model. Now a new business plan has been prepared which will shortly be presented to stakeholders. Nick Terdre reports.

The Stirling prize, the Royal Institute of British Architecture’s annual award for architectural excellence, is a major coup for the pier, bringing it national coverage in the media. “It’s a massive compliment and accolade, not only for the pier but the whole town,” Maria Ludkin, the chair of the owning body Hastings Pier Charity, told HOT.

“The community ownership aspect, the fact that the community mobilised around saving the pier, which everybody told us would be impossible, was recognised as part of the award.”

Pier of the Year according to the National Piers Society.

Pier of the Year according to the National Piers Society.

When the pier, neglected by its former owner and gutted by fire in 2010, reopened in April last year, its £15 million restoration had been funded mainly by the Heritage Lottery Fund but also by nearly £600,000 raised by 4,850 community shareholders.It has since won several Riba awards as well as a Gaga award for its use of galvanised steel, and is currently the National Piers Society’s Pier of the Year.

Hastings Pier is a masterpiece in regeneration and inspiration,”commented Ben Derbyshire, Riba’s president and chair of the Stirling prize jury. “The architects and local community have transformed a neglected wreck into a stunning, flexible new pier to delight and inspire visitors and local people alike.”

The architect behind the prize-winning project was London-based dRMM. “There was no sense in trying to reconstruct it as a 19th century pier – that typology had gone with the fire,” dRMM founding director Alex de Rijke told Riba.

“There was an opportunity to reuse and reinvent the pier and give it a new future…The new pier is designed as an enormous, free, public platform over the sea – inspiring temporary installations and events across a variety of scales. This space offered more potential than an ‘iconic’ building on the end of the pier.”

Tough financial struggle

On the financial front however, the pier is facing a tough struggle to stand on its own feet. “We’re pivoting from being a grant-funded charity into a requirement that we eventually become self-funding, and that’s no easy trick,” Ms Ludkin said. “We’ve only been going 18 months, we’re effectively a brand-new business, and we’re running quite a complicated structure which is expensive to run. “

Uncluttered

Architect’s dream – the potential of space.

Annual running expenses were initially £800,000, but these have now been reduced to £650,000. A new three-year business plan aimed at transitioning the operation to a completely self-funding model will soon be presented to stakeholders. “I’m confident that the stakeholders are going to respond in a positive way, and the Stirling prize can only help that,” Ms Ludkin says. The decision should be known by the end of the year.

Along the way changes have been made. In mid year the catering operation was taken in-house following disappointing results from the appointed contractor. Three staff were recently made redundant. “We greatly regret that but we have to respond to the cash-flow needs of the business,” said Ms Ludkin.

HPC has also lost its chief executive officer. Jo Stewart, who only took office in March, recently stood down for personal reasons, though she has continued to provide assistance to the restructuring process.

Meanwhile rumours that the pier might be sold or taken over have been firmly rebutted. “We also want to reassure everyone that Hastings Pier is not for sale and we are not in talks with any other Pier owners,” HPC said in a statement last month. “As we have previously stated, we are simply talking to our existing stakeholders about new financing opportunities going forward, because the existing plan is simply not working in the way we had hoped.”

 

Posted 10:39 Friday, Nov 3, 2017 In: Home Ground

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