Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Handing over the Pier

Councillor Jeremy Birch hands over the Pier

When I was 16 I had a job for the Summer sweeping up on Hastings Pier – my special skill was using a scraper attached to a broom handle for taking the chewing gum off the floor. 

Now I can pick up my broom handle again, return to those decks for Hastings Pier is set to rise up from the ashes.

The town said it wanted the Pier restored – and the council and the Pier Trust have made sure it can happen.

The council’s compulsory purchase was completed and the Pier handed over to the Pier Trust who can now start to utilise the £13 million they have mainly from Heritage Lottery, but with other funds from the council and from bids we have put in for them.

Everyone who has been involved in the Pier Trust over a number of years has done a fantastic job. They kept the faith even when we stood helpless watching the flames consume one section after another on that night in 2010.

Just imagine what our seafront would be like if the Pier wasn’t restored but just rotted and disintegrated bit by bit with every Autumn storm. As it became more dangerous we might have had to put up the millions needed to demolish it.

Instead it will be restored and become an attraction again. New businesses will be looking to locate on the Pier and others will see that part of the seafront as a new, reviving area to put their money into. It can help draw visitors further along our seafront to White Rock and towards St Leonards.

Some national newspapers wrote when they printed those very photogenic pictures of the Pier fire that its destruction was symptomatic of the decline of the seaside resort and of Hastings. Well we can show them that the repair and re-opening of our Pier is an indication of the revival of Hastings.

Of course the transfer of ownership and the starting of repair work is only a beginning. Further investment is needed to create the attractions and venues that the Pier will need to make the difference to the seafront that we all want.

But we are on the way. Now where’s that chewing gum scraper gone.