CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Hastings Pier are step closer to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) this week gave the thumbs-up to ambitious plans to restore the Victorian attraction to its former glories.
Despite facing stiff competition from similar schemes across the UK, the town’s bid for £8.75million was one of just five to make it through the first stage.
A cheque for an initial £357,400 is winging its way to the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust (HPWRT), which now has to put together a detailed plea for the remainder.
And all the indications point towards the fact that the remaining £8million will not be far behind.
The initial cash will help the trust – which is made up of local volunteers and was recently granted charitable status – continue with its plans to transform the structure, which was closed amid health and safety fears after years of neglect.
Central to the project is a heritage centre earmarked for the pier, which the trust hopes will house educational facilities which will be used by students from nearby Sussex Coast College Hastings.
And the group also plans to restore the damaged substructure, deck and railing in a way which preserves the original designs by the famous pier architect Eugenius Birch.
Angela Davis, spokesman for the HPWRT, was understandably pleased.
She said: “This is a great moment to celebrate the dogged persistence of the trust and the wider community over the past five years.
“We are absolutely delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting our project.
“This news strengthens our resolve to continue working to deliver the vision of an iconic pier for Hastings.”
Stuart McLeod, head of HLF South East, said: “The HLF was extremely impressed by the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust’s ability to mobilise enthusiastic support from the town’s local community for this innovative project.
“It was evident to us that this was an historic structure that people really cared about.
“The trust is right at the start of its journey to fully restore the pier and we look forward to working closely with it in the coming months.”