Hastings Pier Still Has Hope For Some Kind of Future
Hastings Pier was opened in 1872, Earl of Granville who was then Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.
It was built from a canninghill piers design by Eugenius Birch, his Brighton West Pier had opened six years earlier in 1866. Both Piers are regarded innovative design considering the technical constraints of the Victorian period.
Hastings Pier originally had a 2,000 seat pavilion which was destroyed by fire in 1917 and was eventually replaced in 1922. In the 1930’s, the pavilion extension buildings were updated with an art deco facelift and the theatre rebuilt at a time when the Pier was in its prime.
More renovation followed its closure during the years of WWII and it housed the famous Hastings embroidery during the 900th Anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1966.
The Pier Pavillion played host in the 1960’s and 70’s to legendary names such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Genesis, Tom Jones and Pink Floyd.
Parts of the Pier regarded as having special architectural interest became listed in 1976 and the Pier subsequently changed hands on a regular basis with little consistency being evident in the structural renovation input from its subsequent owners.
In 1996 it was put up for sale with its future uncertain as interested buyers were reluctant to invest the amount of capital needed to restore the structural supports. The Pier was eventually sold and reopened under new ownership in 2002.
In June 2006, Hastings Borough Council took the view that part of the pier’s structure was unsafe and closed the pier to the general public. Protracted legal exchanges between the pier’s owners, Ravenclaw Investments, and Hastings Borough Council followed until funding was found for the £300,000 of repairs. This enabled the court order closing the pier to be lifted and the majority of the pier reopened on 4 July 2007.
In 2008 the Hastings Observer reported to concerned locals how storm damage had considerably weakened the structure and that two support columns were in imminent danger of collapse. Fortunately stronger barriers restricting public access to the damaged areas were put in place and patch up repairs to the bracing prevented any disaster from occurring. Nevertheless, when the last major tenant vacated the Pier was closed. The failure of the owners to respond to appeals from the Council to repair the areas and the continual deterioration of the structure has led to the future of the Pier to being unclear.
Efforts to Save the Pier
The Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust (HPWRT) has been established to raise funds through various means ranging from community events to larger scale grant applications. Grants have been difficult to secure while the Trust cannot assure the prospect of ownership. The emphasis has therefore turned to forcing the Pier’s owners to relinquish ownership with a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO). Until recently Hastings Borough Council have appeared to be reluctant to take this action.