The man who designed Hastings pier has hit out at a decision by local planners to allow a ‘family entertainment centre’ to be developed right in the middle of the Stirling Prize winning structure.
In the latest edition of Architects Journal dRMM co-founder and the man behind the design of the pier, Alex de Rijke, says that turning ‘education and interpretation spaces’ on the award-winning pier into an amusement arcade was like ‘inviting children to learn to gamble in the dark’.
Last week the pier’s owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar was granted planning permission by Hastings Borough Council (HBC) for the conversion of the former visitor centre into a ‘family entertainments centre’ despite receiving more than 30 letters of objection having been received opposing the plan.
When the new pier was reopened after a £14m rebuild, following the devastating 2010 fire, it was hailed as an exemplar of community-focused regeneration and in 2017 it went on to scoop British architecture’s most prestigious award, the Stirling Prize.
De Rijke has previously said that the practice’s redesign of Hastings Pier was based on replacing an ‘outdated amusement arcade model’ with the principle of community-owned public space.
Speaking this week he said: “Hastings Pier Visitor Centre was paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund, whose criteria was that the building be used for education.
“The building is all about space, light, views and social inspiration. Its conversion to slot machine arcades is inviting children to learn to gamble in the dark.”
The building in the centre of the pier was previously used as an exhibition area with space for community groups to meet and also a gift and souvenir shop.
At their meeting last week members of HBC’s planning committee agreed to grant a change of use of the existing visitor centre function room into a “family entertainments centre, which will include the provision of amusement arcade machines”.
Councillors were told there would be no alterations to the internal layout or external appearance of the building. The store rooms, WC, kiosk and service lift will all remain and only the educational and interpretation spaces at either end of the building will change to an amusement arcade/entertainment centre.
While there were no objections to the plan from HBC’s Conservation Officer, Historic England or Natural England planners had received 37 letters of objection and two of support. In recommending approval of the plan officials said: “The proposed change of use to an amusement arcade/entertainment area is not considered to cause any harm to the significance or setting of designated heritage assets or residential amenity.
“It will increase footfall on the pier and contribute to the local economy and strategic objectives relating to the seafront as a whole.”