While a lot of attention has been focussed on a feature in Sunday’s Observer about Hastings Pier, over in Brighton, writing for The Argus, Adam Trimingham has his own thoughts which are sure to be controversial no matter which side of the debate you sit on.
Has the owner of Hastings Pier taken on too much? Is the award winning pier no more than a ‘vast expanse of decking’? and is restoring old piers a ‘mugs game?
In his column in this morning’s Brighton based Argus newspaper Adam Trimingham makes some assertions – not just about the pier but about Hastings as a whole – that will doubtless fan the flames of debate on both sides of the argument over who should own and run Hastings Pier.
It was announced yesterday that owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar would reopen the pier next Monday (April 1st) but Trimingham says: “…the whole sorry saga shows once again that restoring crumbling old piers is often a mugs’ game. It also harshly demonstrates that much of the commercial world sees Hastings as a place where companies would rather not risk their cash.”
Trimingham, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as an Independent Public Relations and Communications Professional says that while Mr Gulzar is no saint others must shoulder the burden of responsibility for the ‘parlous plight’ of the pier.
Hastings pier he says was not one of Eugenius Birch’s best efforts and after promising periods in the late Victorian age, the 1930s and the 1960s, it started to collapse.
“The pier had been full of clutter which had detracted from its architecture. The fire gave Hastings a chance to start again. Thanks mainly to the Heritage Lottery Fund…” he says.
However he believes the award, in 2017, to Hastings Pier’s architects of the coveted Stirling Prize was a bad case of what he describes as, ‘the emperor’s new clothes’.
“All the architects had achieved was a vast expanse of decking and almost nothing had been placed on it. As usual, Hastings failed when it came to the crunch,” he says.
Trimingham has some praise for Gulzar for keeping Eaastbourne Pier alive: “Some complained there was too much gold paint on the pier and others queried Gulzar’s business dealings. But he breezily brushed away barbs and joked that Eastbourne was Sheikh’s Pier.”
And Trimingham has little time for critics of Gulzar saying: “…it is far easier to slag off a businessman who runs a pier than to run it yourself – and Gulzar has two.”
He questions whether the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) spent public money too easily and says there is an irony that HLF was accused of the opposite in Brighton when it withdrew a large sum from the West Pier restoration just when the project was ready to proceed.
Hastings Borough Council is accused of ‘taking a back seat’ Trimingham believes it should have been more active but says: “…it has a history of political infighting rather than acting for the greater good of the town.”
“Awarding the Stirling Prize to a load of decking was like giving an arts prize to a blank canvas. The people of Hastings made heroic efforts to save and rescue their pier but ultimately the sums involved were far too big,” he says.
Administrators are accused of being too hasty to sell the pier but he says other contenders for ownership, ‘did not move quickly enough’.
“The whole sorry saga shows once again that restoring crumbling old piers is often a mugs’ game,” he says.
Trimingham tells his readers: “Hastings is far more historic and handsome than most other seaside towns which are down in the dumps.Yet somehow it is sinking with them.
“It has been that way for many years. Back in the 1980s I wrote a bleak piece about Hastings following the collapse of a couple of ventures. The council chief executive invited me to go there again which I did. He showed me sites of great promise including one for a huge marina. But time went on and I never heard again about the marina – nor for that matter, the chief executive.
“I think Gulzar knows he may have taken on too big a commitment with Hastings Pier and that some of the sparky ideas of pier lovers simply will not be viable. That may be why he has been so unusually subdued. I hope with help he can perform a miracle.”
Title photograph courtesy of Jim Breeds
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