Proposals to open an amusement arcade on Hastings Pier have been given the go ahead by councillors.
On Wednesday (May 1), Hastings Borough Council’s planning committee approved an application to open a family amusement arcade in the pier’s visitor centre building.
During the meeting, several councillors argued the new use of the building would provide additional income for the pier and help secure its long term future.
Matthew Beaver (Con. – West St Leonards) said: “Whether you agree with what is going on the pier or not, the pier has to self-finance itself.
“If it doesn’t then it stops functioning as a pier and we get back to the possibility of it being closed again, which I don’t think does anyone any good.
“If you go to Eastbourne Pier or you go to Brighton Pier, the one thing that attracts people are the amusements.”
Cllr Beaver also criticised recent vandalism of the pier, saying it ‘should be deplored’.
He said: “You may not agree with how this process is going, but what needs to be appreciated is that this is an ongoing process.
“No one really knows where this process will finally end. I’m hoping that with continued discussions it can get to a point where everyone is happy with where the process is going and where it will end.”
In making its decision, the committee heard how the application would not involve any changes to the outside appearance or internal structure of the building.
It also wouldn’t allow for adult gambling games, such as slot machines, to be within the building, as the application only sought permission for family amusements.
Councillors also heard how concerns about fire risks from the amusement machines – which had been raised by some of those objecting to the scheme – would be covered by strict building regulations.
However, some concerns were expressed with the proposed changes.
Ruby Cox (Lab – Central St Leonards) said: “I am really troubled by this application. I think there are some assumptions being made that I would disagree with.
“The very nature of those machines or of that type of entertainment is it broadcasts itself far and wide, with flashing lights, loud noises and music, to attract children in.
“I cannot see how this could be a self-contained section of the pier with no effect outside.”
Cllr Cox also raised concerns not being able to use the building for other activities, such as the events which had been held there before the pier charity went into administration.
The loss of income from these events, Cllr Cox said, cast doubt on the argument the arcade was needed for the pier to become economically viable.
She said: “I don’t think we can make the assumption that to put family entertainment on to the pier is suddenly going to produce a huge amount of income that wasn’t there before.
“I also think the assumption that it will be a more attractive conventional use of the pier is also erroneous, because I have had friends visit me who wanted to see the pier because it is different.
“It is different. We can’t ignore the fact it won the [Stirling] Prize. It is a selling point and is something people want to come and see and experience.”
Despite these concerns the committee granted the application with five votes in favour and one against.
Three committee members did not take part in the discussions after declaring a personal interest in the item.