A pier for the 21st century that was likened to a Roman Forum where people could meet to ‘eat, drink and be merry’ was the vision outlined to the public meeting held last night over the future of Hastings Pier.
Adam Wide, the man tasked with dreaming up a creative vision for the pier served up a plan for hosted entertainment running from 10am every day until 2am the following morning. “Absolutely no slot machines,” was Mr Wide’s mantra as he championed the personal touch.
The man who has spent more than 30 years working in the entertainment industry, who turned round the failing Cromer and Bournemouth piers and who has worked with the biggest names in the entertainment industry, explained that he moved to St Leonards just as the pier hit trouble and he immediately wanted to help in any way he could.
Mr Wide wants Hastings Pier to be a vibrant space full of things to see and things to do. His vision includes an Olympic sized climbing wall and zip lines to the beach, existing side-by-side with an outdoor concert venue that can double up as an exhibition area where any or all of the 250 clubs and societies that exist in Hastings and St Leonards can come to demonstrate and exhibit exactly what it is that they do. All this in addition to a new multi-purpose building at the front of the pier; what Mr Wide described as a “mixed use entertainment venue,” that can change its layout depending on the time of day and the type of event it is hosting.
Christmas markets, antique fairs, corporate events, weddings and links with local hotels to lay on package deals were just some of the other ideas that Mr Wide believes will turn the pier in to a ‘destination pier’ a place that people will travel from far afield to visit, “People will come to visit Hastings Pier not just Hastings.”
What was being mapped out was described as a “populist, profitable programme,” because above all else he told his audience, the development of Hastings Pier must be “profitable and sustainable”.
The White Rock Theatre was packed as the meeting got underway at 7.30 last night. Speakers included the Pier’s architect Alex De Rijke who explained that most of the £14m spent on the pier so far has been from the deck down to create a safe and solid structure fit to survive for another 100 years and more.
It is a mark of a good building to be able to change over time Me De Rijke told the audience and that’s what needs to happen to Hastings Pier. He explained that the work that led to the pier’s re-opening in 2016 was always envisaged as only the first stage of the project.
Jess Steele, who was instrumental in the success of the original campaign to renovate the pier after the devastating fire of 2010 explained her vision which involves seeing the pier as two separate entities; the top and the bottom.
She wants the bottom of the pier to be owned, in perpetuity by the people of the town who can ensure – through a community owned enterprise – that it is properly maintained and insured. This would go hand-in-hand with that community enterprise finding a commercial ‘tenant’ to take control of ‘the top’ and generate enough money to pay a rent which would allow the continuing maintenance work, ensuring the prospect of the pier again becoming unsafe and being closed never happens.
Ms Steele believes funders exist who are prepared to help which will allow the community owned model she champions to go ahead. It will take an investment of around £3m to get the pier to a stage where it can become commercially viable and self-sustaining, the meeting heard.
But the elephant in the room that was not confronted until well in to Monday night’s proceedings was the bombshell that was dropped last week by the pier’s administrators who told Friends of Hastings Pier that for their bid to be considered they had to demonstrate they had access to sufficient cash to keep the pier running for two years at its current level of losses, estimated to be around £50k per month.
Despite frantic appeals for cash and for pledges of cash only a fraction of the £1.2m necessary had been raised before last night’s meeting, although as the meeting ended many local people were queuing up to offer their pledges of financial support.
Pledges of money can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word ‘Pledge’ in the subject line.
The meeting concluded by agreeing, almost unanimously, that the vision outlined by Mr Wide was the route people wanted to take and it also agreed that Friends of Hastings Pier should go back to the administrators this morning to ask for a 30 day period of grace – before any final decision on the pier’s new owners is made – to demonstrate that it does have the capacity to raise the finance it needs to keep Hastings Pier in the ownership of the community.
It is believed that the administrators of Hastings Pier were due to met today (April 24) to make a final decision on a new owner for Hastings Pier.