Plans to temporarily erect log cabins on Hastings Pier have been given the go ahead by town planners.
Hastings borough councillors planners granted temporary planning permission to erect five retail sheds on the pier, each to remain for a period of five years at a meeting last night (Wednesday March 6).
Before making a decision, the planning committee heard representations both from the pier’s owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar and objectors, who were represented at the meeting by former pier volunteer Stephen Wilkins.
Speaking about his long term plans for Hastings Pier, Mr Gulzar said: “Having done for four years Eastbourne Pier – which has become one of the most popular – we have invested a lot of money, we have done lots of improvement, [and] there are lots of write ups.
“I don’t know if people sitting here realise I have twice appeared full page in The Times and Telegraph, for what I have done and what I am doing.
“People are trying to pick out certain items which they would like. I would say before making any comments people should put money in their mouth. At the moment nobody has a million pounds.
“Practically, constructively we are attempting what we can and for the first few months we were open we did an excellent job.”
During the meeting, Cllr Warren Davies (Lab. – Baird) asked Mr Gulzar if he would be willing to enter into a conservation management plan, which would be used to guide future development on the pier.
In reply, Mr Gulzar said he would co-operate with Hastings Borough Council and wanted to continue ‘full blast’.
He was also asked by Cllr Ruby Cox (Lab. – Central St Leonards) about why he was seeking to erect the retail units when other huts on the pier have not been leased and what he planned to use the new sheds for.
Mr Gulzar said the existing huts were ‘very small’ but did not indicate what the new sheds would be used for.
However, the committee heard from officers that the sheds would only be licensed for a retail use – not for the sale of hot food and drink.
The committee also heard the recommended planning conditions had been amended, in light of objectors concerns, to strictly limit the duration of the planning permission to five years.
The plans have proven controversial with a number of residents and local groups, with planners receiving more than 87 letters of objection, many raising concerns about the impact on the Grade II listed building.
Before granting planning permission, several committee members expressed support for the plans.
Moving a proposal to grant the planning permission, Cllr Matthew Beaver (Con. – West St Leonards) said: “There is a plan out there to develop the pier over a period of time and I look forward to seeing that happen.
“If this is the start of that whole process then, you have got to start somewhere and these kiosks will generate an income.
“No one is under any belief that this will generate the amount of income the whole of the process is going to ever need. Of course it isn’t going to.
“But it is a start and the whole process needs to start somewhere.”
Support was also given by Cllr Davies, who said: “As we have outlined, the pier does create those passions because it is such a totemic symbol of the borough and also the borough’s ability to rejuvenate itself. We have to be mindful of that.
“[But] these are kiosks purely for retail to bring that footfall back on to the pier. It is the beginning of that journey.
“Ultimately we have that absolute guarantee the beautiful structure, the Victorian legacy, is preserved. That is our paramount consideration.”
However concerns were raised by Cllr Phil Scott (Lab. – Wishing Tree).
He said: “I’m not convinced personally. You can call them what you like; huts, kiosk or sheds. To me, a shed is a shed is a shed.
“That is what I’m seeing on the pier. It doesn’t do anything at all. We need something more, something more substantial and something that will be a draw to the pier. I don’t think five sheds will do that.
“I am concerned about the conservation management plan and the fact we can only add a note to the applicant. We can’t compel him to do anything.
“[But] I would hope he comes forward within a very, very short period of time to make absolutely sure he knows what he can do and can’t do in the future.”
Following a short debate the application was approved with eight votes in favour and one vote against.