Hastings Pier – What’s next?

Hastings is known for being one of the most historical towns in the UK. A big part of that is the illustrious Hastings Pier which has adorned the Hastings seafront since 1872. The pier has seen its ups and downs, including being burnt down on two occasions, most recently in 2010.

Things looked up for Hastings when the tourist attraction re-opened in 2016, but now with the pier up for sale and The Hastings Pier Charity forced into administration, is this the beginning of the end for the pier or a new opportunity for a revival of a famous British landmark?
Eugenius Birch was the brains behind the design and structure of the pier when it was first completed all the way on 5 August 1872. Birch also designed the first Eastbourne pier and Brighton’s west pier.

Hastings pier was opened by Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Earl of Granville, who was joined by 600 guests to sit on the pier immediately after it was opened. These guests included local parliament member Thomas Brassey and some Egyptian princes.

The first occasion the pier suffered fire damage was in 1917 when its 2000-seater pavilion was destroyed in a fire. The pavilion was replaced in 1922 and since then has played host to many well-renowned musicians such as The Rolling Stones, The Who and Pink Floyd.

The second time that the pier burned, this time to the ground, was on Tuesday 5th October 2010 after a suspected arson attack. This fire affected many people in the town of Hastings, especially Jess Steele, founder Trustee of the Hastings pier and White Rock Trust, who described the fire thus: “It was as if a daughter of the town had died.”

The pier finally reopened to the public on 27 April 2016 and since then it has picked up many accolades. These included the National Piers’ Society ‘Pier of the Year’ for 2017 and the Riba Sterling prize for architecture in the same year.

They are several businesses on the pier that draw hundreds and sometimes thousands of people each day, and I have spoken to a few employees of those on the pier about what the pier means to them and what they see in store for the future of the pier.

Maybe the biggest attraction at the pier at the moment is the Pavilion Restaurant, and catering supervisor Kasie Rust believes that the uncertainty over the pier’s future is not affecting business. “I don’t think it is. I’ve been here since we opened and I think the pier has gone from strength to strength. As I’ve seen it, it’s gradually got better and better and this has been one of our better years.”

The Hastings pier is currently being run by the Hastings Pier Charity. The Charity has overseen what goes on at the pier for many years. In November 2017 the charity went into administration, so the pier went up for sale for willing investors. Duty Supervisor of the Hastings Pier Charity, Steve Wilkins knows what the pier represents to the people of Hastings. “The Pier represents community, it represents power of the people and you can make something happen. If you put your mind to it you can raise an impossible amount of money and they brought the pier back.”

Wilkins also explained about phase two of the Hastings pier which was meant to be a second building on the pier, which was never completed due to it falling into administration, so Steve would like the potential new owner of the pier to see the second phase through. “There is an absolute must to have an all-weathers building. We had several things last year that we had to cancel because the winds were so high.

If we had an indoor venue, we could’ve moved indoors which would’ve saved us and event organisers a lot of money.”
Steve also voiced his opinion that the pier needs a regular event going on to get people routinely visiting the pier. “It needs something regular. If you put the right events on here people will come and spend money.”

The sale of Hastings pier will be handled by real estate agents GVA. Spokesperson for GVA, Richard Baldwin, talks of what the pier can offer to potential buyers. “The pier is unique, and offers a custodian the opportunity to acquire a piece o0f Britain’s seaside heritage, with great potential as a leisure destination.”

The pier has no price listing on the GVA website, and Baldwin explains why this this is the case. “Hastings Pier is unique in what it is, it’s a blank canvas without a prescribed end use, so it’s hard to price specifically.” Baldwin also hints at what kind of owner he wants to see buy the pier. “We’re looking for a long-term owner, who has the vision and entrepreneurial spirit to deal with unusual assets of this nature.” He also praises the changes that the pier has seen over the years: “Hastings pier has undergone remarkable transformation.”

For more information on Hastings pier visit the following sites:

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https://www.visit1066country.com/things-to-do/attractions/hastings-pier-p1233701

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-43133029

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