Council to learn pier fate

Demolition work starts to the top part of Hastings pier in November 2010
Demolition work starts to the top part of Hastings pier in November 2010

THE BOROUGH council is expected to learn on Wednesday whether it will be forced to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation over its decision to close the pier in 2006.

Following a protracted legal wrangle, three of the country’s senior judges are scheduled to give judgement in the Court of Appeal.

Last April the High Court judge Mr Justice Ramsey issued a declaration the authority was liable to pay compensation under the 1984 Building Act for preventing all public access to Hastings Pier from the main entrance building onwards between June 16, 2006 and September 12, 2006.

The council has since faced a compensation claim from Manolete Partners plc, which acquired the right to sue from Stylus Sports Ltd, former tenant and operator of the bingo hall and amusement arcade on the pier. Stylus went into liquidation in 2012. Last month, the council went to the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling of Mr Justice Ramsey. On Wednesday three of the country’s top judges, Lords Justices Jackson, Aikens and Patten are set to give their judgment on the appeal bid. During the initial case, the council relied on three defences to the claim but these were rejected by the judge, who said Manolete was entitled to compensation for a period of around three months.

At the High Court hearing Justice Ramsey said concerns about the pier’s structural integrity were first expressed in 2004. In 2006 pieces of metal were found to have fallen from its underside. An inspection found at least five trusses had failed and it was unsafe to allow large numbers of people on. The council decided it had no option but to shut a large section of the pier, despite three major events booked to take place in the ballroom in July and August that year. It secured a court order from Hastings Magistrates on September 12, 2006 forcing Panamanian pier owners Ravenclaw Investments to prohibit public access to the pier and do repair work within 32 weeks which it did not carry out. Stylus and the council then decided to take matters into their own hands and paid around £300,000 - the majority share from Stylus - to do the much-needed structural work themselves.

In July 2007 the pier’s bingo hall and bar were reopened after Stylus was given the go-ahead by magistrates. Stylus launched a claim for compensation under the 1984 Act for the period between the initial closure and the September 2006 court order. This claim was later assigned to Manolete by Stylus’ liquidators. The council denied liability for the period, saying it applied for the order on June 16, 2006, and any delays were caused by the court, not by itself.

It claimed that its actions in banning public access to dangerous premises did not give rise to an actionable claim against it, as a result of the duty of care it owed to the public.