dRMM has described its ‘dismay’ at the fate of its Stirling Prize-winning Hastings Pier as a row rages over the unexpected closure of the attraction
The pier – which was hailed as an exemplar of community-focused regeneration when it scooped the prestigious award in 2017 – was shut to the public shortly after Christmas for ‘essential repairs’ and will not reopen until March.
This decision has increased tensions between local residents and the pier’s new owner, businessman Abid Gulzar, over his plans for the structure.
Gulzar has been nicknamed Goldfinger because of his penchant for the precious metal. He has already installed mini gold hippopotamuses on its wooden walkway.
Now dRMM’S Alex de Rijke has spoken out over the pier’s troubled history and the chain of events that led to the structure being put up for sale just two months after it won the Stirling Prize.
De Rijke said the practice’s redesign of the pier was based on replacing the ‘outdated amusement arcade model’ with the principle of community-owned public space.
However the charity running the pier was not making enough money and became indebted, he said.
’Cashflow is a problem for any company; not many make profits in the first year of trading,’ he added. ‘Plans to stage ambitious larger events including music festivals with high profile acts to generate the revenue necessary for maintenance, overheads and profit, were abruptly cut short.’
De Rijke said he was ‘shocked’ that the UK legal system allowed the assets of a publicly funded charity to be bought by a private company at a ‘cut-price’.
‘Namely a £14 million project bought for £60,000, according to Land Registry documents, no doubt with undisclosed promises of further investment’.
He added: ‘I am also dismayed that the administrator rejected an alternative £750,000 offer with a five-year business plan from the community.’
Following the pier’s closure over the festive period, Friends of Hastings Pier, a group that raised nearly £500,000 to buy the site and keep it open to the public for free, called on Gulzar to be ‘transparent’ over the pier’s future.
The debate over the pier’s future has been playing out on social media, where locals have criticised Gulzar’s plans to introduce an amusement arcade and his installation of the gold hippopotamuses.
The lesser spotted golden hippo guarding the ice-cream on Hastings Pier 😊 pic.twitter.com/q5pZ6AhqEI— Pat Garrett (@patgarrett777) September 2, 2018
But in an interview the Guardian, Gulzar hit back at residents who want ‘everything for free’. ’I will make sure this pier will be one of the best, but I will not tolerate any nonsense where people come and use swear words,’ he said.
‘The most important thing is to get on with this work. I will do everything right. I love Hastings, it’s one of the best seafronts, but it should improve.’
However the row is showing no signs of abating. Earlier this week local news reported that a woman has been charged after Gulzar’s gold Mercedes, described by the businessman as ‘the most photographed car in East Sussex’, was damaged in Eastbourne.
A statement on the pier’s Facebook site dated 29 December 2018 said: ‘Hastings Pier will remain closed until March 2019 to allow time for essential repairs and improvements to be carried out.’
Hastings Pier by dRMM ph4