IT is full steam ahead for the £14 million project to rebuild Hastings Pier following the news that the iconic structure has been returned to local ownership.
The official announcement, a major milestone in the project, was made yesterday (August 15) as Eric Pickles MP, secretary of state for communities and local government, visited the pier for the ceremonial cutting of the chain which has long held the gates closed.
Mr Pickles said: “I will be queuing up to walk on the pier. Off season, there will be plenty going on, and in season, it is going to be the thriving, beating heart of Hastings.”
He added: “It is important to ensure it is done for the people of Hastings, as well as the visitors.”
Structural work will start this month, with the pier due to be open for business in spring 2015.
Once operational it is hoped that the pier will be a valuable asset to the town, bringing £1.2 million into the local economy, creating over 50 jobs, and drawing in an estimated 325,000 visitors in the first year.
The CPO was put in place by Hastings Borough Council following years of neglect by panamanian-based owner Ravenclaw and the catastrophic fire of 2010. It was enacted on Wednesday (August 14), and the ownership of the pier has now been passed to Hastings Pier Charity, the organisation which will oversee the rebuild and redevelopment.
The lions share of the money for the project is to come from the Heritage Lottery Fund (£11.4 million), with significant amounts from the Coastal Communities Fund, the Community Assets Fund, Hastings Borough Council and the East Sussex Invest fund from East Sussex County Council.
Simon Opie, CEO of the Hastings Pier Charity, said: “We want a new pier as well as to restore the old, using sustainable materials wherever we can.
“We’ll provide open space not just for promenading but for family and community celebrations; a real attraction for tourists and a valuable asset for locals and the town.
“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 Peoples’ Pier.”
The first phase of the work will include renovating the pier’s Grade II listed substructure, transforming the remaining pavilion into a restaurant, and the construction of a new visitor centre, which will also serve as an archive and display area for the pier’s local heritage, including a sound library of residents’ memories.
A range of seasonal events will take place in the versatile outside space including a circus, rides and attractions, outdoor cinema, music, theatre, exhibitions, farmers’ markets, film festival, food and drink festival, winter fair, and urban sports.
A community share scheme will offer ownership and a say in the future of Hastings Pier to those who wish to become shareholders.
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “This is great news for the future of Hastings Pier. We are full of admiration for Hastings Pier Charity and its successful campaign to ensure a much-loved landmark is saved and restored to its rightful place at the heart of the community.”
She said this was one of the largest projects supported by the organisation, and an extremely significant one in terms of the engineering work to be carried out.
Councillor Peter Chowney, Hastings Borough Council’s lead member for regeneration, said: “Three years ago, Hastings Borough Council and the Pier Trust embarked on an ambitious project to restore the derelict and abandoned Hastings Pier. “At that time, few believed we’d be successful.
“Now finally, with the transfer of ownership from Ravenclaw to the Pier charity the partnership has realised its goal; the pier is in local ownership and the money is in place to restore it.
“So, today is a very important day in the history of Hastings Pier and a real cause for celebration. It’s a major step forward in returning Hastings Pier to its rightful place as a major attraction on our seafront.
“A huge amount of work has gone into getting this result, and I would like to thank everyone involved.”
For information and updates visit www.hpcharity.co.uk.