In the second half of a two-part feature, the Hastings Observer takes a look back at the highs and lows of the six months from July to December 2016.
• Hastings MP Amber Rudd was promoted to Home Secretary on July 13. She was one of the first cabinet members to be announced as Theresa May took over as Prime Minister.
The Conservative MP is only the fifth woman to hold one of the Great Offices of State in British history.
• Tens of thousands of seadogs, buccaneers and pirates descended on the town on July 17 for Pirate Day. The whole town was festooned with the skull and crossbones as residents and visitors got into the swashbuckling spirit. The pier saw more than 15,000 visitors on the day, as it played host to a wide range of pirate-themed activities.
• The air ambulance was scrambled after a man was rushed to hospital with chemical burns on July 14 after he came into contact with a corrosive substance. Three men were cleaning toilets in a building in Marine Court, St Leonards when they spilled around five litres of potassium hydroxide.
• An electrical fire in a shop’s refrigerator sparked a mass evacuation in St Leonards on July 19. A member of the public spotted the fire at the Spar shop in King’s Road before alerting staff. Residents in adjacent flats were evacuated.
• The council failed in a last-ditch attempt to appeal against a decision that it must pay compensation for closing the pier for health and safety reasons a decade ago. The authority’s appeal was thrown out by the Supreme Court in London. A hearing was held in June with the court’s decision announced on July 27.
• Hastings Old Town Carnival Week drew in the crowds with the Old Town Crier Competition, Tug O’ War contest, the Nearly on the Beach concert and other events like the Pram Race and Seaboot Race.
• Tributes poured in across the town and further afield for three-year-old Hughie Pringle, who died on August 18 from a rare brain condition. His family and friends launched a campaign to get a new play park built in his memory, having raised tens of thousands of pounds from well-wishers within days after an online fundraising page was set up.
• BHS in Hastings closed its doors for the last time on August 20. The firm ceased trading after administrators failed to find a buyer for the doomed chain. The 88-year-old department store’s collapse affected 11,000 jobs across the UK.
• More than a year after the devastating fire at St Michael’s Hospice in July 2015, it was announced that the £1m Phoenix Appeal target was reached, thanks to the generosity and hard work of hundreds of people.
• More than 20,000 people headed to the Old Town to enjoy the 13th annual Seafood and Wine Festival showcasing local produce.
• A rare bird normally found in tropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans was found in St Leonards. East Sussex Wildlife and Rescue Service was called out to reports of a seabird washed up on the beach. The bird turned out to be a red-footed booby bird. It was flown 5,000 miles home after making a full recovery.
• Hastings and the whole of 1066 Country marked the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings with a series of special events. The annual Hastings Week festivities culminated in the bonfire procession and burning of the effigy.
• A retired PE teacher had the opportunity to rub shoulders with British Olympians Laura Trott and Jason Kenny. Michael Girardot met the pair while he was in the Old Town on October 19. The couple had just finished a month-long honeymoon across Europe.
• Russian warships making their way to Syria through the English Channel sailed past Hastings on October 21. The flotilla of Russian military vessels was shadowed by British naval ships as the Ministry of Defence said it would be ‘man-marking the convoy’ while near UK waters.
• The High Court ordered a fresh inquest into the death of Private Sean Benton - more than 20 years after he died while undergoing training at Deepcut barracks. Sean’s twin brother Tony Benton and sister Tracey Lewis, represented by Liberty, applied for a fresh inquest in July 2015.
• Plans for a multi-million pound sports complex were unveiled on November 4. The proposed development, potentially named Combe Valley Sports Village, is expected to bring £70m of new investment into the town, made up of £58m housing and £12m sports facilities.
• Coperforma was stripped of its contract to provide patient transport services across Sussex. The decision followed months of controversy surrounding the firm, which took over the contract in April. Hundreds of patients in 1066 Country and across the county found their transport delayed or cancelled.
• A school in St Leonards was crowned the happiest school in the UK. Silverdale Primary Academy, in Perth Road, won the accolade at the Laughology Happiness Awards 2016 in London on November 18.
• People of all ages came together at the war memorial in Alexandra Park at the annual Remembrance service to pay tribute to the fallen. Veterans stood alongside members of youth organisations to lay poppy wreaths and crosses at the memorial following a procession from the town hall, along Queens Road, to the site.
• A man was jailed for life on December 2 for a brutal attack in which he chopped off the thumbs of his victim. Stephen Bryant, from St Leonards, attacked his 36-year-old acquaintance in May 2015.
Police were initially alerted after the victim was seen being dragged from his home in Earl Street around 10am on May 29.
• The family of a popular 11-year-old boy who died following a road collision paid tribute to him.
Harley Simpson, who attended St Leonards Academy, died on November 4, after the crash on October 22. A silver Renault Espace hit a central crossing bollard on A259 in St Leonards and then Harley, who was waiting to cross the road.
• Hundreds of parents and children signed petitions calling for a clampdown on inconsiderate and dangerous parking outside schools. The campaign, led by borough councillor Andy Batsford, called for all traffic enforcement officers to be placed outside primary schools on a random rota for the first 45 minutes in the morning during term time. More than 300 parents and 1,500 children signed petitions.
• The plan to close the town’s university campus and allow Sussex Coast College to take on more higher education courses was confirmed on December 16. The University of Brighton’s Hastings campus will shut in the summer of 2019, giving the majority of current students time to complete their courses. Unions were left disappointed by the decision, describing the move as ‘educational vandalism’.