Saving Hastings Pier - is the project dead in the water?
‘Everyone Loves the Pier’ proclaim the few faded, dog-eared notices left around the town. Maybe, but love won’t last without communication or any evidence of positive action.
As a newcomer to Hastings, I can’t understand how the town is willing to put up with such a terrible, depressing eyesore of burnt out wreckage dominating the sea-front.
To me, a seaside resort needs a pier, and I was initially delighted with the apparent enthusiasm and energy of the HPWRT, and with the news about the initial grant of lottery money. We visited the Pier shop many times, and donated goods and money to help the cause.
I was surprised to read that the Council only issued a Compulsory Purchase Order for the Pier just before Christmas, when the Lottery money had been awarded back in August. How did anyone expect the Lottery money to be used if ownership had not been sorted out?
Now, however, the campaign to fundraise and save the Pier now seems to be totally dormant.
The Pier shop has closed – a very bad move, I believe, as it provided a focus for fundraising, volunteering, action and information for local people and visitors. The tatty notices on the Pier gates are months out-of-date. How are visitors now expected to find out what is going on?
The HPWRT website is also out-of-date – it still refers enquiries to the Pier shop. No new publicity or fund-raising events are advertised, the photography competition finished in August, there is no news on the Business initiative launched back in September, and the content feels old and stale.
The only publicity that has appeared recently from HPWRT concerns the appointment of its new Chief Executive, and now the recruitment of his assistant. As someone who has spent her working life in the public and not-for-profit sectors, I am filled with foreboding. So often I have seen grant money frittered away on staff salaries, overheads and meaningless business plans, while the original project falls by the wayside. Many people make good careers in the voluntary sector moving from project to project without actually achieving anything.... However busy the new CEO is, he needs to find time for the essentials.
I assume the HPWRT has a Board of Trustees? They can’t now just sit back and trust that the new CEO will fix everything. The Board is still in charge, needs to drive the project forward, and needs to demonstrate its accountability to the people of Hastings.
In order for any further Lottery money to be awarded, the HPWRT must demonstrate that local people are kept informed, are actively involved in the project, and have a genuine desire to see their Pier restored. They must also demonstrate success in fundraising within the community – even if sums raised are small, they will go some way to match Lottery grant.
What happened to the work done to collect ideas for the ‘People’s Pier’ back in the summer (or was it the summer before?). That seems to have died, as does the initiative supported by ‘Coast’ magazine for people to visit every pier in the country to raise funds.
The ‘Buy a Plank’ scheme still seems to be current, but has had no recent publicity.
What support is the Council giving to the HPWRT?
Burnt out piers can be rebuilt successfully – look at Weston-Super-Mare.
This is not good enough! We either need to see evidence of an energetic campaign to get the pier up and running, or else it needs to be demolished and cleared away for good.