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Hastings pier

Friends make bold request to run the pier

While extending the Crowdfunding period, the Friends of Hastings Pier have made a bold request to the administrators to be allowed to run the pier during the second half of the year. Nick Terdre reports.

The request to run the pier was made in a phone conversation with Adam Stephens, one of the two administrators, last Friday, Adam Wide, a spokesperson for the Friends of Hastings Pier told HOT.

The Friends would be partnered by a third party who specialises in pop-up food and drink provision and has committed to working with FoHP, he said. The administrators were due to talk to this person on Tuesday (5 June 2018).

Stephens also asked to see a copy of the agreement with igloo Regeneration which has undertaken to provide an interest-free loan of £300,000. “The good thing is that he asked to see it,” Wide said. “He didn’t say, ‘Your idea is entirely stupid.’”

£80,000 still needed

The igloo Regeneration loan accounts for the bulk of the funds so far raised to back the Friends’ bid. The Crowdfunder campaign, which had been due to end on 31 May, has now been extended to the end of June, in the absence of any deadline set by the administrators for finalising bids. Including the igloo loan, funds raised stood at just over £420,000 on Tuesday, £80,000 short of the £500,000 target.

The pop-up food and drink provider has the equipment and the assets to deliver a food court directly onto the pier, as part of the Friends’ business strategy of providing constant entertainment to increase both footfall and dwell-time on the pier, Wide said – by persuading people to come in larger numbers and stay longer, revenues will rise.

“If the third party can convince the administrators he can deliver the food and beverages and has the infrastructure to support our idea, then I think that will be seriously considered by the administrators,” he said.

The Friends’ offer to run the pier for the second half of the year would involve shouldering any losses – funds raised so far are sufficient to cover that potential liability, though Wide did not expect to make a loss. The pier has 100 days a year to make money, and has to tread water for the remaining days, he said.

Pier operations are currently being financed until November by funding of some £600,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has made it clear it does not intend to put any more money into the pier.

Other bids on the table

Wide said that during the phone conversation it became clear that the Friends are competing not only against the owner of Eastbourne pier, Abid Gulzar, but other bidders too.

If the administrators agree to the proposal, it will give the Friends a chance to show that they can do the job and allow them more time both to bring in alternative funds and to persuade the council to look seriously at their proposal that the Foreshore Trust should acquire the freehold of the pier as a means of securing community ownership in perpetuity. The charity committee which runs the Foreshore Trust is due to meet on Monday 25 June.

“There’s no doubt that the Foreshore Trust, if they can be rallied round, would be an ideal solution for the administrators,” Wide said. “They have actually said that they would look very favourably on an FoHP bid if the Foreshore Trust were able to take on the ownership of the pier.”

“It would be great if Foreshore Trust could be proactive in working with us to find a solution,” Jess Steele of FoHP told HOT. “It’s not the only way forward, but it would make a big difference.”

Hosting new performance venue

Wide said he had also suggested to Peter Chowney, the council leader, that the new White Rock performance venue proposed as an option in the White Rock area masterplan could be built on the pier. That would make it available sooner than if it were implemented as part of the masterplan, in which case it would have to await the demolition of the White Rock Theatre.

Noting the criticism of the administrators made by some members of the Friends, Wide said, “I have nothing but total respect for Adam Stephens, he is a remarkably decent man, with enormous integrity, and I get very annoyed when I hear the FoHP painting the administrators as the enemy.

“They have shown time and time again during this process that they’re not the enemy and actually they are doing their best to include us as these negotiations go forward.”

Rain stops plays

Meanwhile two Shakespeare plays due to be performed on the pier this week by the Three Inch Fools have been transferred to the shelter of St Mary in the Castle due to likely adverse weather. A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed on Wednesday 6 June and Hamlet on Thursday 7 June, both at 7.30pm.
Visit here to contribute to the Crowdfunder campaign.

FoHP Facebook page.

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Posted 19:06 Tuesday, Jun 5, 2018 In: Campaigns

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