Hastings Pier closure ‘could have been handled better’ says council leader

Cllr Peter Chowney, Hastings Borough Council leader
Cllr Peter Chowney, Hastings Borough Council leader

The leader of Hastings Borough Council has said it was ‘unfortunate’ no prior notice was given before Hastings Pier was closed for three months.

Pier owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar said on Saturday it would be closed until March to allow time for essential repairs following a small electrical fire on November 24.

However, council leader Peter Chowney said no extended closure period was mentioned when he met Mr Gulzar just before Christmas.

In a statement, he said: “Clearly Hastings Borough Council has no direct control over Hastings pier; it is privately owned, and the owner is entitled to adopt whatever opening hours he wants to. And, indeed, a number of other visitor attractions in the town do close in the winter.

“However, when I had a meeting with him just before Christmas, no extended closure period was mentioned, and there was no hint that the pier would be closed over Christmas and New year.

“A lot of people were disappointed it was closed over that period.

“Certainly the seafront was busy every day between Christmas and the New Year, I think it would have been a good opportunity for the pier to sell itself, and make some money.”

“I also think it unfortunate that no prior notice was given, and, indeed, that there was nothing on the pier to tell people that it was closed, so I do think the communication could have been handled better too.”

Councillor Chowney said Hastings Pier’s status as a listed structure means any modifications to the structure require listed building consent and planning permission.

He added: “When I met Mr Gulzar, I did urge him to make sure he put in applications in advance of making changes, or installing new structures that require permission, rather than submitting retrospective applications.

“When the council receives complaints about works having been done without permission, we have to act on them, and it’s a lot easier if these are discussed with council planning officers in advance. However, the council must treat the pier in the same way that it would treat any other listed structure, within the requirements of conservation and planning legislation.”

Councillor Chowney was supportive of Mr Gulzar but urged him to communicate with the local community that ‘wants to see the pier succeed’.

He said: “I understand that Mr Gulzar has ideas for new structures on the pier, and I look forward to seeing plans for these.

“We will of course be happy to consider any proposals that make Hastings Pier thrive, by making it financially sustainable and increasing its appeal as a local attraction, which is what we all want to achieve.

“I would however urge Mr Gulzar to reach out to the local community a little more, to involve local people in his proposals and gain their support.

“Hastings Pier is a much-loved local landmark, and many local people contributed their own money to its restoration as ‘The People’s Pier’.

“Indeed, Hastings council spent over a million pounds on the restoration project. So we all want to see the pier succeed.”

The Hastings Observer has put a series of questions to Mr Gulzar about the closure of Hastings Pier but has not yet received a response.

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