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Pier unchained: from left, local MP Amber Rudd, communities secretary Eric Pickles, council leader Jeremy Birch and, half-obscured, HPC CEO Simon Opie.

The pier is ours!

Hastings Pier is back in the hands of the community, and following the ceremonial re-opening of the gates yesterday, restoration is about to begin. In spring 2015 the town’s iconic structure is due to open for business again. Nick Terdre reports.

The milestone was reached on Thursday 15 August in the presence of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles MP, who, flanked by local MP Amber Rudd and leader of Hastings Borough Council Jeremy Birch, watched as the chain which has held the pier gates shut in recent times was cut and the gates re-opened.

The pier’s fortunes have been dramatically reversed since it was extensively damaged by fire in October 2010. On Wednesday it was taken out of the hands of the absentee owners, Ravenclaw, by means of a compulsory purchase order enacted on behalf of the council. Ownership will pass to the Hastings Pier Charity (HPC), which under its chairman John Lovering and chief executive officer Simon Opie will oversee its future.

“It’s a great day for Hastings,” Mr Birch told HOT. “It’s been a long journey but I’m sure it will prove to have been worth it. Now it belongs to the people of Hastings.

“The pier is a key element in our regeneration plans – once restored it will attract not only people but also other businesses to the sea-front – they will want to tap into the vibrant activity here.”

Bursting with pride

“I’m bursting with pride at such an exciting moment for the town,” said Mrs Rudd. “It’s definitely a part of the regeneration jigsaw and will contribute to the economic growth we are all reaching for.

“The trustees, volunteers, members and supporters of the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust should all be congratulated and thanked. Their hard work and ambition has taken us from those dark days in 2010 to where we are today with a fantastic new pier about to be built.”

Onwards and upwards: roadmap to a bright future.

Restoration of the pier will take place under a £14 million project funded principally by the Heritage Lottery Fund, whose chief executive office Carole Souter was also present.

Key roles will be played by two limited companies to be set up by HPC: the Piers Works Company will manage the restoration and maintenance activities, while People’s Pier (Hastings) will operate it. HPC, currently a company limited by guarantee, will itself shortly convert to a community benefit society.

A community share scheme aimed at raising £200,000 is also to be launched. This will enable members of the public to take a stake and have a say in the pier’s future, though regardless of the size of their interest, each shareholder will have only one vote, HPC trustee Ray Chapman told HOT.

 

Posted 14:51 Friday, Aug 16, 2013 In: Home Ground

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