Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd met with interested parties to gain more information about the closure of Hastings Pier and when it will reopen.
The meeting took place on Saturday (January 26) and was attended by Steve Wilkins – who organised the pier community event on January 12 – Rachel McCarthy from Friends of Hastings Pier, leader of Hastings Borough Council councillor Peter Chowney, along with officers from the planning department.
All present were able to put questions and comments to pier owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar who closed the pier for three months at the end of December.
The meeting covered the reason for closure, timescale for reopening, and the nature of the repairs.
Mr Gulzar said the pier was closed to conduct repairs following an electrical fire in November, as well as acts of vandalism.
At the meeting, according to Ms Rudd, Mr Gulzar’s team committed to putting up notices on the gates of the pier regarding their plans as well as ensuring that residents are able to visit the ceremonial plaques of loved ones.
Ms Rudd said: “This was a productive meeting in which I was able to get reassurance that the pier will be open for the end of March or earlier.
“I am hopeful that this is the start of a new dialogue between the owner and community and I look forward to seeing all groups working together to get the best out of our wonderful pier.
“It has come to my attention only recently that there will be a delay to the owner’s planning applications due to Hastings Borough Council owning two pieces of land by the pier. I hope that the planning department will recognise the urgency behind this process and engage positively with the owner.”
Councillor Chowney said it was good to hear the pier would be reopening no later than the end of March but hoped it could be ‘partially reopened’ sooner.
He added: “I remain concerned however about the lack of clarity in both short and longer term plans for the pier, and its relationship with the Friends of Hastings Pier, the council, and the wider public.
“I would urge Mr Gulzar to reach out to the council and the local community, and so we can all help him achieve a shared vision for the future of Hastings Pier.”
Mr Gulzar, who thanked Ms Rudd for organising the meeting, said he wished to reopen the pier ‘as quickly as possible’ and looked forward to working with stakeholders to achieve that.
After the meeting, Mr Wilkins added: “Our pier isn’t just any pier.
“It was resurrected through a huge amount of local community time and effort and I think it’s important that the current management remember this to help them understand why people are so invested in it.
“By working with the community, Mr Gulzar could gain trust from residents and in turn, their support. I hope this meeting went some way to making this happen.”
Ms McCarthy described the meeting as a ‘step in the right direction’.
She added: “Friends of Hastings Pier played a key role in the restoration of Hastings Pier and remain open to any constructive engagement that means the community can be confident that it is well cared for and the people of Hastings benefit from the pier they worked so hard to rebuild.
“It was a step in the right direction that the pier’s owner met community representatives alongside local politicians and council officials and heard their concerns and questions regarding the pier closure, insurance cover and future plans.
“However, it is clear that more must be done to ensure the community can have a meaningful say in a way forward for the pier.”