Decayed, damaged and fire-ravaged, Hastings Pier was rescued by the determination of local residents and is now entering a second golden age in full community ownership.
Hastings Pier opened on 5 August 1872, Britain’s first ever bank holiday.
The ‘peerless pier’ was one of the busiest on the south coast, flourishing during the Victorian seaside tourist boom. In later years it was popular as a venue for acts including the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Pink Floyd.
But by the 1990s storm damage and neglect were causing disrepair. Deemed unsafe, the gradually decaying pier was closed between 1999 and 2002, then again from 2006.
Many thought the pier’s death knell sounded on the night of 5 October 2010, when fire swept across it, destroying 95% of the superstructure.
The fire, a suspected arson attack, was a huge blow to Locality member the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust (HPWRT). This group of local residents and business owners had been fighting to save the pier since 2006. When the fire happened, they had already convinced Hastings Borough Council to carry out compulsory purchase order on the pier, had been granted £75k for feasibility study, and had just agreed to go to EU-wide tender for architects.
After the fire, instead of giving up, HPWRT and their engineers ascertained that the cast iron and steel skeleton of the pier was still sound, meaning the pier could potentially be rescued.
A few weeks later HPWRT applied for an £8.7m Big Lottery grant. This last throw of the dice for Hastings Pier would give HPWRT most of the funding necessary to rebuild the pier.
In April 2011 HPWRT was awarded the grant in principle. They now had two years to submit a fully developed proposal. They carried out all the development work and appointed a CEO.
At the same time, Hastings Borough Council continued with its compulsory purchase order to buy the pier from its owner, Ravenclaw. Since the fire, Ravenclaw, a company registered in Panama, had failed to respond to any of the council’s letters, and in March 2012 the compulsory purchase order was issued.
HPWRT submitted their final bid to the Lottery, increased to £11.4m, in August 2012. A few months later in November Hastings got the news it had been waiting for: the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the pier the full grant of £11.4m.
On 15 August 2013 the compulsory purchase order was enforced, and the HPWRT formally took ownership of the pier on behalf of the local community.
The next stage is to refurbish the pier, building a new visitors centre and restoring the pavilion. The pier will once again become a major tourist attraction, bringing visitors and jobs to the town.
Simon Opie, Chair of the Hastings Pier Charity, said: “We want to offer a 21st century take on the traditional English pier and for it to be used often by locals and visitors alike, a People’s Pier.”
You can get involved and help restore the pier by investing in the Hastings Pier community shares scheme: http://www.microgenius.org.uk/project/hastings-pier-15
At the time of writing there were almost 700 investors in the People’s Pier, totally over £140k.