A group representing community shareholders of Hastings Pier have said they believe it is 'essential' that the pier's freehold is not sold into private ownership.
Following news that the pier had gone on the market this week, the recently re-established Friends of Hastings Pier (FOHP) said it was 'disappointed' with the move, raising concerns about the registered asset of community value moving into private ownership.
Instead, the group - which is made up of 105 signed-up shareholders and their supporters - says it wants to explore mixed models with community ownership and commercial operation and say its is in discussion with private operators about these plans.
A spokesman for the group said: "It is essential that the freehold of the pier is not sold into private ownership to avoid the position it reached by 2006 when it was closed for safety reasons due to neglect by a private owner.
"It was never the intention to leave the revitalised pier with ‘nothing on it’. The aim was: stable ownership, a stable platform, and an initial business plan that could sustain it while seeking further investment for phase 2 of the ‘21st century pleasure pier’, which included additional shelter, a major events programme, and, eventually, the reinstatement of the landing stage.
"We feel that it was wrong for the pier to be put into administration without involving the shareholders or giving them a chance to put forward a different option. The ‘sale’ notice has taken us by surprise.
"We are disappointed that the administrators seem to be acting as a liquidator rather than trying to find long-term community-owned solutions. However, they wrote to shareholders after the news broke to say this marketing is 'just part of their efforts to ensure the widest possible opportunities'”.
In response to the group's concerns, the administrators said: "We are aware of the intense interest concerning the pier. We continue to seek organisations and individuals with the specialised knowledge, sensitivities, coherent business plans and extensive finances necessary to ensure that the pier can continue as a going concern long into the future.
"Any party which has a viable business plan, and the kind of investment financing that Hastings Pier needs to have a secure long term future, are encouraged to contact the sales agent and put their proposals to them.
"We are confident that everyone would agree that the most important outcome is a viable long term future for the pier, and that is a cornerstone of our focus too."
The sales agent, Richard Baldwin of GVA, can be contacted at (0113 280 8039, email@example.com ).
FOHP is encouraging more community shareholder to join the organisation. More information can be found on its Facebook group or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group is also planning a large meeting for shareholders and others, which is to be held at the White Rock Theatre. from 7.30pm on Monday, April 23.