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Slots where slots shouldn’t be

Even in high summer, Hastings Pier is looking meagre still, with more toy animals than visitors. (Closing at 5pm in high summer probably doesn’t help.) The ‘new amusement area’ has opened — but some of gaming machines are where they should not be. What will Hastings Borough Council (HBC) do? Bernard McGinley looks at a needlessly drawn-out problem.

The decision to approve the pier owner’s application (case ref HS/FA/18/00896) for slot machines was taken by the Planning Committee on 1 May (see HOT report here).

The committee report (in Section 2) was clear about exactly what was being allowed in the central Deck building:

There will be no alterations to the internal layout or external appearance of the building. The store rooms, WC, kiosk and service lift will all remain in situ, and only the educational and interpretation spaces at either end of the building will change to an amusement arcades/entertainment centre. 

Between the two main rooms is the kiosk area, and this space is now filled with gaming machines. There is no permission for this. But this very clear breach of planning permission has yet to be addressed by HBC.  

(The educational space is still named the Birch Room, in part after the late council leader, though it is now hemmed in by money-grabbing machines.)

Slots in the Birch room, for which there is no planning permission.

Slots outside the Birch room, for which there is no planning permission

‘What makes that building special’

In April, it was pointed out that the pier had been disfigured by speakers and lights and cheap signage for which there was no Listed Building Consent. The council’s line then and since was to insist on the need for ‘dialogue’ with the owner.

For lesser mortals, HBC advice for those with listed buildings is clear:

. . . consent is needed for anything that might risk detracting from what makes that building special.  

External excrescences.

External excrescences

That seems clear enough, for ordinary householders anyway. Being the national winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize makes the pier special (among other reasons).

Clearly the council’s policy of ‘dialogue’ with the owner of the pier is not working.  The pile-up of offences is becoming worse not better.  Are these matters to be dragged out for the length of the summer season? Whose interest would that be in? 

There is a clear-cut case for enforcement. Will the ‘dialogue’ include such matters as the ‘slots’ without planning permission, the repeated lack of Listed Building Consent (LBC), or the non-compliance in observing licensing requirements for the drinks lists of the upstairs café-bar to be accurate?

More slots.

Planning enquiry fees

When the infraction was reported, the council’s response was to send a tariff:

A fee is applicable for a query relating to a previously approved application you can find a list of our fees on our website

But this was not about a ‘previously approved application’:  it was about action where there was no planning permission, and a council response was/is required.

The ‘planning enquiry fees’ of the tariff are typically stiff, such as:

Enforcement

• confirmation that an enforcement case has been closed     – £80
• confirmation that an enforcement notice has been complied with where the answer cannot be given from our existing records                  – £66
• confirmation that an enforcement notice has been complied with where the answer can be given from our existing records                         – free 

Listed building consent queries

• confirmation of compliance with Listed Building Consent – £218

They seem aimed at developers and applicants rather than at residents reporting or querying abuses of the planning system. In practice they can also be used for collateral discouragement. It may be that HBC wish to lessen accountability, as with recent council constitutional amendments.

’External appearance must be preserved’ 

Since the change of pier ownership in June 2018, the council has been supine regarding the pier, all of which is a listed building in a conservation area. On the other hand they talk tough about Grotbusters. 

Meanwhile the pier continues to have few visitors unsurprising given the lack of a notice board stating opening times and pending events. Bird droppings are more in evidence than a sense of management.

At the May meeting of the Planning Committee, the acting chair (Cllr Warren Davies) was clear regarding the Deck building that its ‘external appearance must be preserved’. It has not been preserved. The council still has many options apart from quiet capitulation. The permission letter for the slots speaks of safeguarding amenity and how the council has ‘sought to work with the applicant in a positive and proactive manner’.

Sadly the owner seems not to have returned the favour, and appears to regard planning procedures as optional. Cumulatively that amounts to a lot of disrespect. 

The minutes of the May Planning Committee regarding ‘Pier slots’ case HS/FA/18/00896 recorded (in Section 123.1):

that the application is for a change of use and not for any external changes as this would require a separate application.

 . . . The Principal Planner added that any signage would require separate planning permission.

So will the council take enforcement action? If not why not?

Comments for or against can be sent to HBC Development Control at  DCComments@hastings.gov.uk .  As far as is known there is no tariff yet for submitting a view . . .

Cafe sign - also lacking permission.

Cafe signage — also lacking permission

Posted 21:35 Tuesday, Jul 9, 2019 In: Home Ground

10 Comments

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  1. Bolshie

    Yes agree a very well researched and informative article. And I am having a hard time understating why the person named “Pat” who thinks this is a hate campaign against the fake Sheikh. If the article is libellous “Pat” do tell us what part of it is please.
    As I understand, though subject to being corrected, this Mr Gulzar has had a few encounters with Eastbourne council over various planning issues with the pier there and his hotel(s). I think we have to accept he is one of those people that is always going to tempt fate and create controversy. It is his nature.
    As for the machines where they shouldn’t be. After seeing the performance of the Sheikh at that planning meeting where he rambled on and trashing various people, you can see he out to challenge anyone who steps in his way.

    Comment by Bolshie — Thursday, Jul 18, 2019 @ 17:22

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    Many people were under the impression that the matching pavilion would be rebuilt to match the renovated curved structure – the loss of this building has meant that there are inadequate covered areas on the pier now.
    Our summers are short in this country and even during the summer months the weather cannot be relied upon. To have a huge open expanse without cover from the elements is ridiculous and univiting.
    However, it is clear that the owner of our pier is not planning to erect any additional permament structures to the pier, relying on tacky ornamentations, gaming machines, expensive alcoholic beverages and not much else. None of these will bring the required revenue to the pier and without revenue the pier will undoubtedtly fail. The insurance costs alone are huge. The future is not looking rosy.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Jul 15, 2019 @ 08:17

  3. Heather Grief

    I agree with people’s comments about gambling machines, but wish to suggest a solution. Hastings Pier needs a rather bigger answer than anything Mr Gulzar has proposed so far. I had hoped that he would come up with plans for a large sheltered space that could be used for various performances – they are being held in the open, with the result that some have to be cancelled due to adverse weather, causing a big financial loss. The best way of achieving such a space is to rebuild the other half of the curved shelter that was burned down, to match the one that has been repaired/rebuilt, and to have some kind of a light-admitting domed roof over the space in the middle. The new building could be used for exhibitions – art, local history etc. – which would attract visitors, including lots of local people if regularly changed. The History House, 21 Courthouse St, has history exhibitions changed on a regular basis; currently on display is Seaside Hastings, until the end of July. Local museums and galleries might like to loan exhibitions.

    Comment by Heather Grief — Thursday, Jul 11, 2019 @ 17:32

  4. Mary

    Thanks for this well informed article albeit that it increases the despair over a council who are either collusive or inept when dealing with opportunist developers and business impresarios. Now let’s imagine what would improve the well being of a community many of whom struggle economically and etc……. I know — gambling! Haven’t we got enough ways to lose and how is it that a town and national public asset whose restoration was paid for by taxpayers and poor people’s lottery gambling has been allowed to pass into private ownership despite a significant local campaign to save the pier from this ignominious fate? The perpetrators should be brought to account for this blatant trespass against the common good.

    Comment by Mary — Thursday, Jul 11, 2019 @ 10:12

  5. Christopher Hurrell

    Excellent article summarising the many planning and enforcement issues .

    How this can be described as a hate campaign is beyond me. Unless of course it is hateful to point out an organisation’s failures to comply with regulations.

    Is it libellous to lay out the facts in a clear and concise manner?

    Comment by Christopher Hurrell — Thursday, Jul 11, 2019 @ 09:48

  6. Paul Burns

    In response to Pat, you attempt to smear the author by alluding to libel and an accusation of joining a hate campaign.

    What specifically is potentially libellous?

    How does drawing attention to planing issues amount to hateful behaviour?

    The author is clearly identified. Pato hides behind a common single name to express your bias.

    I have had no involvement in the pier or campaigns for it. Only the gall of Pat’s comment has led me to write this.

    Comment by Paul Burns — Thursday, Jul 11, 2019 @ 08:50

  7. Jeanie

    What a carefully researched & well written article. Lots of highly relevant points raised about planning specifics, an informative & stimulating read. It is important to educate the public about the planning process for the pier along other local sites which you also cover in similar excellent fashion & inform us all as to how we can have a say in proposed changes in this area. Thank you HOT, you really do provide excellent top notch local journalism.

    Comment by Jeanie — Wednesday, Jul 10, 2019 @ 20:40

  8. Ms.Doubtfire

    This is not a hate campaign against the owner of the pier – it is a campaign to ensure that planning regulations are observed and that our pier does not end up a tacky tasteless remnant of what was a unique and wonderful building.
    It is saddening to witncss this councils dilatory attitude to these serious breaches of planning regulations. And it does seem that the more the owner flouts the regulations the more he will feel inclined to carry on with his tacky ideas. Why is the council turning a blind eye to his antics?
    As for being a libellous article – please! There is nothing but the truth in this article.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Wednesday, Jul 10, 2019 @ 20:28

  9. Pat

    I am astonished that HOT have joined the hate campaign again Mr. Gulzar by publishing this, what could be considered libelous article, written by someone who is angry that Mr. Gulzar bought the Pier. I thought you were better than that. Obviously not!

    Comment by Pat — Wednesday, Jul 10, 2019 @ 14:15

  10. Katja Seaton

    The trouble with the debacle that is the Pier, is that it will put others off getting involved with any developments Hastings plans. I don’t suppose the architect who designed the beautiful, carefully considered building would have been quite so enthusiastic if he had known how shoddily the pier would be handled. It is incredibly sad that such a wonderful landmark has been defaced and degraded.

    Comment by Katja Seaton — Wednesday, Jul 10, 2019 @ 10:37

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