People power all-important in pier success

SIMON Opie, the man who is at the forefront of the pier rebuilding project, has extended a heartfelt thanks to everybody who has ever supported it.

“Without your individual support, the pier would not be in the state it is in today, which is the state of being fixed,” said the CEO of Hastings Pier Charity.

Simon Opie, CEO of Hastings Pier Charity

Simon Opie, CEO of Hastings Pier Charity

“Every single person who has done anything on behalf of the pier should be extremely proud that they have made a difference.”

He said this includes the potentially thousands of individuals ranging from trustees of the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust through to those who have put money into collecting tins.

Last week signalled the visible start of work to rebuild the pier, as ownership of the Grade II-listed structure was passed to Hastings Pier Charity, the organisation which was set up to manage the £14 million restoration project, which is due to be completed in spring 2015.

“The lesson is, if you care about something enough and are determined to change it, you can,” said Mr Opie.

He is adamant that without the overwhelming support of the local community, there would be no Hastings Pier.

In particular this was a key factor in the decision of the Heritage Lottery Fund to fund the project to the tune of £11.4 million, he said.

“The reason they have stuck with this project is that they have always been impressed by support at grassroots level.

“That has been as important as any other factor.”

Continuing the theme of the “People’s Pier”, will be the Community Shares Scheme launching at the end of September.

Individuals will be able to have a say in how the pier is run by investing an amount from £100 to £20,000. One share equals one vote, regardless of the amount invested.

The aim is to raise a total of £500,000 within three months from the launch date of the scheme, which is an important was of ensuring transparency and accountability with regards to the management of Hastings Pier.

Mr Opie said: “I don’t think there is a more appropriate way for the pier’s future to be entrusted to the community.

“The average raised by similar sorts of schemes is £200,000, but we are one of the most high-profile schemes to go down this route.

“The opportunity to have a stake in the pier I think is something which will provide great interest to people, both locally, and further afield.”

The Community Showroom, which will be located at the White Rock Baths, is due to open at the end of the year, and will allow members of the public to track the progress of the project, as well as being home to a number of heritage and educational projects.

Mr Opie said: “A large part of the work we are doing is around digital technology and finding new ways of presenting the heritage of the pier.”

He said that the challenge is to explore ways of bringing the pier to life that go beyond the raw data, using the idea of the “living pier”. Of course decisions will also now start to be made to shape the all important programme of events.

We asked members of the public what they would like to see on the pier when it is reopened. To see what they said visit bit.ly/19vqKwp.