It’s D-day for Friends of Hastings Pier as they battle to keep the iconic Victorian structure in the hands of the community.
Ahead of a public meeting tonight at 7.30 in the White Rock Theatre an enthusiastic band of volunteers has taken to radio and TV over the weekend to plead their case. The results have so far not been overwhelming with less than one per cent of the money required having been pledged – less than £9,000.
But while high-profile media activities have been the order of the day some people believe big opportunities have been missed, Kate Tugwell said: “The pier was finally heaving yesterday but where were the bucket shakers, the placards and the banners?
“Eight thousand pounds won’t cut it. They need to put turnstiles in and charge £1 entry.”
She also suggested approaching all local schools: “Mufti day, £1 a head to support the pier for what will actually be the current school age population? Put on a multi schools show on the pier, charge parents and families to come.
“Many of us out here feel that too much of the energy in the Friends of Hastings Pier group appears to be going into meetings about meetings and who is top dog. Who cares? Before we know it, there will be chains on those gates and the end of the pier show will be rolling into town, again.”
Jackie Reed writing on social media says: “Sad to say but as one of the original £100 shareholders I’m reticent the throw good money after bad, a clear open honest structured business model may sway those such as me?”
And there has been chatter too that a decision to present themselves as ‘the plucky underdog’ in TV and radio broadcasts may have undermined credibility, one man told Hastings In Focus: “They should have shown they had a great idea and, importantly a viable business plan. I would have liked to see them beating a drum and blowing their own trumpet – no one else will do it for them. I don’t want to hear whining about being the underdog.”
Tony Isted said: “As much as their plight is a very noble one it is only ‘unfair’ if the terms being imposed on them are not being imposed on other interested parties. Looks like a level playing field it’s just they don’t have the funds.”
While Brendan Mahoney says: “There must be hundreds of organisations who’d take it on. If this lot can’t raise a million quid then they obviously haven’t a decent business plan and will fail in any case. It’s most probably better off with a proven attraction owner who will copy the palace pier model and bring more tourism and money and jobs to the town.”
With the pier’s losses running at a reported £50k per month the administrators of the Hastings Pier Charity need to find a buyer quickly. As part of its business plan Friends of Hastings Pier had asked the administrators for a six month window to allow them to identify a commercial partner or to set up a commercial operation themselves to generate income.
That option would have required the administrators to have funded a further £300,000 of losses and they decided that was not an option. Instead they imposed a deadline of tomorrow (Tuesday) for Friends of Hastings Pier to show they could access sufficient funds to keep the pier running.
At its meeting last week members of Hastings Borough Council debated the pier and acknowledged there was no way the council could become financially involved in the project. There was a commitment, however, to try to help as much as possible smooth the path for planning applications that may come forward for development of the pier.
At tonight’s public meeting Adam Wide, the man responsible for devising a creative vision for Hastings Pier, will make a comprehensive presentation of what he believes is possible for the pier under community ownership.
Friends of Hastings Pier hopes that many of the people coming to tonight’s meeting will pledge cash to the fund that will allow the community to retain control of the pier, if that doesn’t happen then it’s likely that by the end of tomorrow Hastings Pier will have a new owner and that owner will be from the private sector.