‘Gambling in the dark’ pier architect unhappy at entertainment centre plan

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.

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Conceived as an exhibition and meeting space part of the former Visitor Centre will now house a ‘family entertainments centre’ that will include slot machines and arcade games.

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De Rijke has previously said that the practice’s redesign of Hastings Pier was based on replacing an ‘outdated amusement arcade model’ with the principle of community-owned public space.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.”

5 thoughts on “‘Gambling in the dark’ pier architect unhappy at entertainment centre plan

  1. It’s about time we have something different on the the pier it’s so dead on it at moment, not like it was before the fire.

  2. We need to be more imaginative the fruit machines and candy floss and tacky toys.
    This is a great community space.
    Why don’t we have a local competition with a prize for the best idea based on age groups
    Ideas for.
    Senior citizens.
    People with disabilities.

    We could have food fairs, dancing, mardi gras, carnival. Live music events, cycle events, displays. Christmas market, Carol singing.
    Craft and Skill Demonstrations.

    Events to compliment the wonderful diverse ethnic and music scene we have in the town.

    This could be done under a covered or semi-covered marquee.

    I am sure there a lot better ideas than the few I have suggested above..

  3. This is not what the pier needs, it will fail to generate the revenue needed to save the pier. Lazy unimaginative thinking will not stop its decline, the pier needs an investor with enough cash and vision to turn it around. Slot machines are not the answer.

  4. This of course is a standard theme with piers. However, one also has to take into account the Sheikh is not exactly someone rolling in money as observed by looking at this various businesses. Therefore this is a easy low cost means to generate some income.

    It is a pity this building could not have been used for a more cultural come entertainment pursuits. And looking at Eastbourne pier that he owns this Sheikh will be looking only at what is a money maker.

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