Observer Comment: Hastings Pier campaign... the people of Hastings made it happen

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IT DOES not seem possible that a year has passed since the town stood helpless while Hastings pier was ravaged by fire.

For most of the us the blaze will seem like only yesterday but 12 months have passed since the seafront was deluged by thick, black smoke and the much-loved Victorian attraction was reduced to little more than a charred skeleton.

At the time the initial concern was that the mindless arson attack could have put paid to the ambitious restoration hopes which had been steadily gathering momentum right up until a meeting just hours before the fire.

Many thought the pier, and the town, would not recover from the fire. Hastings, it seemed, would lose its most iconic building.

Not so.

The determined band of campaigners rallied. Thousands of locals offered their support and the town pulled up its collective sleeves and got down to the hard work of returning the pier to its former glories.

In the year since the fire, Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust has seen its membership skyrocket, received countless donations, recruited a firm of architects to design the new structure and, just this week, appointed a hugely respected and experienced new members onto its board.

The contrast between that terrible morning in 2010 and today could not be more stark.

For the first time since it closed the overwhelming emotion felt by all those who love the pier is one of optimism.

Hastings is a town which thrives through a hard-working, committed and proud community.

People often say that Hastings is a unique place. They are not wrong. We defy anyone to find a town with prouder locals - locals so often willing to give up their time to make the best of the place they live.

Nothing is that truer of than the approach to Hastings pier. The Observer backed the campaign with a petition and coverage. But the people of Hastings are who made it happen.

Today, as we look back and remember the morning when the pier all but disappeared before our eyes, each and every one of you who has done something to help the campaign should give yourself a pat on the back.

The pier may still be closed. The funding may still need to be found. But the spirit of the pier remains in good health.

And that, in no small part, is due to the spirit of local people.