The new Battle of Hastings? The fight continues for control of the pier

Friends of Hastings Pier has published a revised business plan and details of its financial projections as its battle to secure community ownership of the pier continues.

A spokesman for FoHP said yesterday: “We want to acknowledge the amazing contribution and ongoing commitment of the pier staff and volunteers who are keeping the pier running despite the uncertainty and frustration they must be feeling.”

It’s now a week since Adam Wide, the mastermind behind the creative vision for a reborn pier and Jess Steele, who spearheaded the campaign to save the pier after the devastating fire of 2010, met Adam Stephens from administrators Smith and Willamson. FoHP says the meeting was, “positive and useful” and, “helped to refine our ideas further”.

Hastings In Focus spoke to Smith and Williamson this week and they say they are working to find a solution that is “in the best interests of Hastings Pier.” The spokesman said there were no deadlines in place other than the statutory deadlines required by the legislation surrounding the administration process, he said he felt it was “not helpful” to impose what he described as “artificial deadlines”.

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Other potential buyers are known to be interested in acquiring Hastings Pier. This photograph, showing Sheikh Abid Gulzar owner of Eastbourne Pier, inspecting the Hastings structure was posted to Facebook on Wednesday.

And FoHP says it is now backing an idea put forward at the public meting held last month when the suggestion was made that the Hastings and St Leonards Foreshore Trust could buy the pier. That idea has now been fleshed out and FoHP is suggesting that the Foreshore Trust could grant a 150-year full repairing peppercorn lease to a new official body to be called Friends of Hastings Pier Trust. That trust would then aim to lease the ‘top’ (deck and above) to a commercial operating company in which it would own a 90 per cent shareholding.

An FoHP spokesman said: “This is an excellent way of spreading risks and responsibilities to where they are best managed, allocating the commercial responsibility to the operator, the delivery and fundraising responsibility to FoHP Trust, and the long-term ownership responsibility to a stable charity that already owns all the rest of the foreshore.”

Hastings Borough Council is the trustee of the Foreshore Trust and a spokesman for the council said this week: “Any financial commitment would need very careful discussion.”

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State for Culture, Media & Sport, Matt Hancock has been invited to the town by Friends of Hastings Pier.

But right now all of FoHP focus is on its Crowdfunder  campaign with a target to raise £500,000 by the end of May, if they fail to do that then, “all the other opportunities will be lost” said the FoHP spokesman.

So far almost 600 donors have contributed almost £63,000 but that still means FoHP must bring in more than £33,000 every day between now and the deadline.

“We are working with larger contributors and hope to see the results of this early next week,” the spokesman said.

FoHP has written to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport, asking for his personal involvement in the decision as to who will win the battle for the pier and inviting him to visit Hastings and see first hand the work that is going on in the community.

Writing on social media this week Adam Wide told one critic of the pier who questioned why it had been saved in the first place: “It was saved because it’s amazing! It’s beautiful, modern and could well become a World class tourist attraction. As you wryly observe there is nothing on it because it was NEVER finished. Only Phase 1 was achieved; the saving and re-building of the infrastructure. Phase 2 – the content – is about to start!

“Whoever takes it on will have to put things on it to be able to cover the maintenance and insurance costs, currently running at £225,000 a year. The Administrators have the task of advising the Heritage Lottery Fund who the next owner should be.

“The FoHP plans could easily be profitable, but as many people have commented it needs money to be able to cover the expected losses, as well as to build the new building for Phase 2.

“The People of this area have shown so much passion and are the only new potential owners able to fully represent the people of Hastings …. so let’s hope the cards are able to fall in our favour.”

To see some of the ideas Adam Wide has come up with for Hastings Pier follow this link. Hastings PIer – The Vision

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