Pier chief likes the challenge

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THE MAN overseeing the future of Hastings Pier has just completed his first month in the job - and says he’s relishing the challenge.

In that short space of time, Simon Opie has already been involved in making some important decisions for the trust as its new chief executive.

He was instrumental in the review of whether to close the Pier Shop at White Rock as it is was proving too costly to run.

And he recently oversaw the £10,000 emergency works to protect and secure the last remaining building on the pier at the front entrance.

A former Euro Disney project vice president, Mr Opie took up the reins of the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust on November 1.

He was tasked with leading the takeover and renovation of the historic structure and has been busy settling into the role.

Mr Opie, who lives in Cranbrook, Kent, is now busy looking for an office as he currently spends several days a week working out of the White Rock Hotel.

He joined the trust at one of the most exciting times in its history as it could be months away from taking ownership of the pier.

Recently, the borough council agreed to send a letter to Panama-based Ravenclaw Investments inviting them to repair the pier within two months or face a compulsory purchase order.

Mr Opie is already preparing funding plans and is confident the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will provide the crucial £8.75 million by October next year.

“It’s been a rollercoaster of a first month,” said Mr Opie. “But it is the challenge I expected and I am really enjoying it.

“It has been quite a busy time meeting the trust members, architects and council officers such as borough planning officer Tim Cookson and the regeneration team of Simon Hubbard.

“The key challenge has been establishing a working relationship with the council which I am pleased to say is extremeley positive.

“I did a review of the Pier Trust shop at the trust’s request and they made the decision that it was time to move on having saved the shop interior from destruction, and focus on the pier.

“I am currently working on a report back to the HLF by April which will need to show we have all our funding in place. The council will not give us the pier unless the money is in place to repair it.

“I think we may have ownership by October and that will be our ‘eureka’ moment.I must thank everyone who donated towards the £10,000 for emergency work. Every penny will count in our fight to save this vital part of Hastings heritage.”