A NEW dawn has arrived for Hastings beleaguered pier a year on from the devastating fire which ravaged the Victorian icon and robbed the town of its landmark building.
Just 12 months ago the town was trying to come to terms with the shocking scenes of wanton destruction which made national news for all the wrong reasons.
The fire which shook the town, broke out in the early hours of October 5.
It was a dark day in the town’s history but just a year on there appears to be plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.
The pier is moving tantalisingly close to rising again from the ashes as the small group of battle hardened campaigners continue their fight for funding and restoration.
The Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust (HPWRT) quickly set about galvanising support for its cause and bringing in key individuals to help organise its campaign.
Simon Opie, a major figure from the entertainment business, has just been appointed as the chief executive of the trust.
John Collins, the president of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, has been appointed as non-executive director for the People’s Pier Co – the leisure management company set up to run the commercial aspects needed to raise revenues to sustain the pier.
The trust engaged dRMM, innovative architects to design the new pier.
And since this time, dRMM have been assisting in the preparations for the compulsory purchase and community consultation sessions with the trust.
The trust has secured the initial support from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the £8.75 million renovations costs.
It now needs to deliver the initial development project with its £350,000 HLF budget and raise £1.1 million of funding match to release these funds.
Crucial to unlocking the full £8.75 million funding is the successful compulsory purchase of the pier by Hastings Borough Council, a process which has been started already.
In order to raise the £1.1 million, the trust has developed innovative fundraising ideas such as Adopt a Plank and will shortly be launching its Community Share programme which will enable supporters to purchase shares in the People’s Pier Co.
This will allow them to have a say on future leisure activities on the pier and in the long term, will provide a share in profits generated.
Founding trustee John Hough, and manager of the Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, said: “The future has never looked brighter for Hastings pier since its closure.
“The pier was a vital part of our fully functional seaside town. If we are to be successful as a seaside resort we need it back on its feet because it was our unique selling point. We are only a small team of nine people but we have come a long way in a short space of time.
“We have been overwhelmed by the support of people here - we had one young lad who even offered to give us his pocket money. There are only 55 piers left in the country and we need to protect them for future generations.
“It seemed like a lost cause - but when you’ve got nothing to lose there really is no other option.
“The groundswell of public concern and we did not feel the pier being in private hands was ever going to be sustainable.
“We had to bring it back it into third party ownership and are confident we can do that through a compulsory purchase order from the council.
“This summer we noticed a drop of year on year on the number of people in our shopping centre.
“The lack of a pier being open has disappointed families and had a knock-on effect on footfall for us. They may not be coming here now because the pier is closed.
“We have plans for a new visitor centre with catering facilities and we feel a revitalised, vibrant and attractive pier would give the town a major boost and help bring those lost visitors back.”
Click on our Hastings Pier link to see how we reported on the fire and to see a dramatic video of the fire.