Avoiding the end-of-the-pier show in Hastings
This article by Andrew Bibby, in a slightly different form, was first published by Choice magazine, 2011
Hastings' sea front is dominated by its pier, a once-fine Victorian edifice which stretches out into the English Channel . Sadly today the pier is firmly closed, and indeed is formally listed as a heritage building at risk.
But there may yet be a bright future for the pier. A locally based trust, Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust (HPWRT), is campaigning to take over its ownership through an asset transfer arrangement with its borough council, which is using compulsory purchasing powers to acquire the pier from its current private-sector owners. Local people say that it is not even clear at the moment who actually does own what is a real eye-sore at the heart of the town.
Part of the trust's plans involve the creation of a new People's Pier Company, a community-shareholder owned management company which would be able to manage the operation of the pier and generate the income necessary to operate it into the future.
There is still a long road ahead for the trust, which estimates that it will need £8.75m to save the pier's structure and create a new Heritage Learning Centre there. However, the first hurdle has been passed: in May this year the trustees learned that they had been successful in a bid for an initial development grant of £357,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a big boost for the volunteer trustees who, when they started their campaign in 2009, had only a few thousand pounds in the bank, raised mainly from local people in membership subs and donations.
The Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust emphasises that a restored pier will bring economic as well as social benefits to a seaside town which has suffered recently from the recession. Saving the pier is not just a worthy effort in terms of preserving the town's heritage – it's also, it seems, a good way of helping to strengthen the local economy.
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