The organisation responsible for running Hastings Pier has gone into administration.
Earlier today (Friday) Adam Stephens and Finbarr O’Connell of Smith & Williamson LLP confirmed they have been appointed as joint administrators of Hastings Pier Charity, after the organisation failed to secure backing for its new business plan.
The administrators say no employees have been made redundant as a result of this action and that they intend to work with staff, the previous trustees and local stakeholders to guarantee a sustainable future.
Lead administrator Adam Stephens said: “Sadly the charity was unable to finalise and implement a new successful business plan. The trustees sought professional advice and this advice suggested that administration would better position the charity to restructure itself and move forward to a successful outcome for this heritage asset.
“We want to acknowledge the fantastic work done by the board of trustees of the charity. Their work has created an amazing bridgehead for us in our search for a new long term sustainable solution for the pier.”
“We also want to remind everyone that the Pier and its facilities remain open as usual. Please come and spend some time in this great place and support its rescue.”
The administrators say they had met with a number of key stakeholders in the run up to their formal appointment as administrators and will continue to liaise with them and others.
Finbarr O’Connell said: “We are already talking to one party which is seriously interested in the pier. We anticipate extensive talks with local stakeholders including Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council as we work towards the long term sustainable solution for the pier. Adam Stephens and I plan to work tirelessly to find a solution to the challenges which have affected this amazing structure.”
In response to the announcement Hastings MP Amber Rudd said: “This is very disappointing news.
“The pier was rebuilt by the drive, determination and commitment of the community. We still have our fabulous award winning pier.
“Now we need a solution for all parties to work together towards which will provide it with a sustainable future. I will certainly work as hard as I can to make this happen. The Heritage Lottery FFund has stepped in to provide funding for the year. We need to use that opportunity to find a sustainable solution.
“Our award-winning pier is not just an exceptional piece of architecture and a fantastic attraction in our town, it is a symbol of how, when we come together as a community, we can achieve something outstanding which we can be rightly proud of. We rebuilt our pier to an exceptional standard, we must do all we can to make sure it continues in its place as a landmark of our town.”
Earlier this week The GMB union - a major shareholder in the pier charity - called on Hastings Borough Council to give financial support to the business plan.
Speaking at the time Charles Harrity, GMB senior organiser, said: “It is a crying shame that after the brave efforts of all who have volunteered and collected money and in particular the local people of Hastings, the local council aren’t supporting them by also investing in the pier. Thanet council, for instance has invested £4m in the regeneration of Dreamland, with a view to building a tourist attraction and bringing money into the local economy.
“The people of Hastings deserve a council which recognises how important Hastings Pier is to the regeneration of the town, and to the hearts and minds of the people who live here.”
Following today's announcement, council spokesman Kevin Boorman said: "We are very sad and disappointed that the pier has gone into administration. We would like to pay tribute to the staff and volunteers who have worked so hard over the years to restore and operate it.
“Hastings Borough Council has supported the pier since before the fire in 2010, and have invested over a million pounds in it since then.
“We paid for the clearance of the debris immediately following the fire, and the 24hr security patrols until the pier was secure. If we hadn’t have done that there is a real likelihood that the pier would not be here today.
“We then of course pursued the compulsory purchase of the pier from off-shore Ravenclaw, the previous owners, immediately transferring ownership to Hastings Pier Charity, enabling them to pursue its restoration.
“Officers here have invested a huge amount of time in helping the pier charity since before its inception, and continue to do so, most recently working with the Heritage Lottery Fund.
“And just last month we contributed £20 000 towards a grant aid package that the pier asked for whilst they produce restructuring plans.
“In past years, we could well have been able to invest more money. But with £30m in government grants cut from our budget since 2010, and further grant cuts to come, the days when we had additional money to contribute are sadly gone.
“We will of course assist the administrators as much as we can, and are heartened by the fact that the pier will remain open.”