PICTURES: Community group vows '˜it is not over yet' in Hastings Pier sale

A community group seeking to keep Hastings Pier in public ownership vowed '˜it is not over yet' as hundreds turned out to protest after rumours it had been sold to a private company.

People's Pier protest. Photo by Frank Copper
People's Pier protest. Photo by Frank Copper

On Wednesday (June 13), rumours spread on social media that the popular landmark had been sold to Sheikh Abid Gulzar from Eastbourne Pier.

As a result, employees of Hastings Pier organised a protest gig featuring live music from 6pm yesterday evening (Wednesday, June 13) which attracted an enthusiastic crowd.

Friends of Hastings Pier (FOHP) – a group of residents seeking to keep the pier in public ownership – said it was not involved with organising the event but did support it.

People's Pier protest. Photo by Frank Copper

Jess Steele, one of the key figures in FOHP now who was also previously instrumental in raising the public funds to renovate the pier, said there was a clear alternative to the pier going into private ownership.

At last night’s protest gig, she announced that FOHP had been asked to put a revised business plan to the administrator – Adam Stephens – by noon on Thursday. This was because FHOP has a commercial partner willing to start investing straight away and help underwrite any losses incurred over the next two years, she said.

She added: “It’s not over yet.

“We’re working up to the wire to try to get the best long-term answer for Hastings Pier. We are exploring every possible option that includes community ownership and will continue to do so on behalf of the 1,600 donors, the wider community of Hastings and St Leonards and all those community projects around the country that took inspiration from the People’s Pier.

People's Pier protest. Photo by Frank Copper

“We are now in a very strong position. We now have a very experienced commercial operator partner/investor on board who is willing to install and operate a new temporary structure on the pier at his own cost.

“He is also keen to work with FOHP to agree the balance of commercial operations and community commitments. This essentially means we are ready to go. All we need is for the administrator to agree to sell us the pier and we could be up and running with our new business plan within weeks.”

The administrator asked FOHP to prove its financial credibility in just a few weeks. In response, FOHP set up a Crowdfunder appeal to raise £500,000 by the end of June. They believe they can raise the rest of the money from other major donors.

The campaign has raised around £440,000, approximately £60,000 short of the target, and the group said it is confident the remaining sum can be raised before the end of the month.

People's Pier protest. Photo by Frank Copper

Hastings Pier was put into administration last November by the Hastings Pier Charity. This meant the fate of one of the country’s very first Community Benefit Societies, established under an act passed in 2014, was subject to a legal system which is designed purely to deal with commercial bankruptcies.

The administrator Adam Stephens said he wants to make an imminent decision so whoever takes over the pier can benefit from the summer trade.

Mr Gulzar has refused to comment.

People's Pier protest. Photo by Frank Copper