The owner of Hastings Pier said public safety was his ‘primary objective’ when he decided to close the attraction for three months of repair work.
Sheikh Abid Gulzar announced on Saturday the pier would be closed until March to allow time for essential repairs following a small electrical fire on November 24.
The decision was criticised by Friends of Hastings Pier, a group of residents who had sought to keep the pier in public ownership, who said they would be approaching Mr Gulzar to hear the details of the safety concerns behind the closure.
Brett McLean, spokesman for Mr Gulzar, said today (Friday, January 4): “The repairs are essential and necessary electrical repairs to the buildings and not to any of the substructure, our maintenance team carry out regular inspections of the structure as they continue to maintain Eastbourne Pier.
“Our primary objective is public safety and our secondary objective is visitor enjoyment and therefore we do not wish to have members of the public visiting a pier that is currently under repair.
“We want visitors to enjoy their pier experience and take in the full beauty and delight of this award winning structure rather than have their visit dampened due to parts of the pier being closed or under construction.”
Friends of Hastings Pier said they would ‘seek clarity on staffing issues’ while the pier is closed.
Mr McLean said the pier received a ‘few staff resignations before Christmas’ while some staff members have been transferred to Eastbourne Pier – which is also owned by Mr Gulzar – for the ‘interim period’.
He added: “Some staff have looked for alternative interim employment whilst we are carrying out the current repair works and are due to return to us once these works have been completed.”
Announcing the closure on Saturday, Mr Gulzar’s team said planning permission for five additional retail and catering units and the introduction of traditional pier arcade machines which will be located beneath the Deck Bar has been delayed by the decision to close the pier.
However, Mr McLean said if the team is able to continue its current work schedule and planning permission for the retail units is granted by Hastings Borough Council, the pier may reopen earlier.
The planning application is expected to be heard in February.
Friends of Hastings Pier said some residents had been unable to visit memorial plaques of loved ones on the pier over the Christmas holidays due to the closure.
The group said this had ‘disappointed’ residents and asked why the whole pier needed to be shut.
Mr McLean added: “We believe that memorial plaque visits need to be undertaken with dignity and respect and therefore conducted in a fully operational pier and not one with parts that are closed.”
Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd said she will be meeting with Mr Gulzar to ensure there is urgency getting the pier reopened.
The leader of Hastings Borough Council,Councillor Peter Chowney, said the pier closure ‘could have been handled better’.
He said no mention of an extended closure was mentioned by Mr Gulzar during a meeting just before Christmas.
Councillor Chowney asked Mr Gulzar to communicate with the people of Hastings who ‘all want to see the pier succeed’.
More than 1,000 people have signed a petition calling on Mr Gulzar to reopen the pier.