A letter by Amber Rudd concerning the closure of dRMM’s Stirling Prize-winning Hastings Pier has been heralded as a thinly veiled attack on the prime minister’s handling of Brexit
Commentators in both the mainstream and social media channels claim the work and pensions secretary’s open correspondence about the last-minute postponement of the pier’s opening is actually a lightly disguised swipe at Theresa May.
The pier – which was hailed as an exemplar of community-focused regeneration when it scooped architecture’s most prestigious award in 2017 – was suddenly shut to the public at the end of last year for ‘essential repairs’.
Following the news that Hastings Pier will remain closed past March, I update residents in my open letter below pic.twitter.com/WXM7C1nzwJ— Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddHR) March 21, 2019
It was due to reopen at the end of March but a recent statement from the owners said this had been delayed until the Pier Jam dance festival in May.
The timeline mirrors May’s announcement that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU had been put back from her initially promised date of 29 March to a newly agreed deadline – which is dependent on Parliament backing her exit deal – of 22 May.
Rudd published a letter to a resident over the pier closure, which many have taken as a swipe at May over Brexit.
‘Like you I am incredibly disappointed that Hastings Pier will not be open for the end of March as originally planned,’ she wrote. ‘It is unacceptable if the pier remains closed indefinitely and I cannot support any scenario where that is the case.
‘Following discussion with the pier owner, I understand the extended closure comes as a result of fresh structural damage. Further repairs are now, as I understand, being conducted.
‘I urge the owner of Hastings Pier to conduct these repairs as a priority so the pier may open as soon as possible. Our town cannot keep experiencing delay after delay.’
Almost imnmediately, remain campaigner Natasha J Michaels tweeted: ‘This is a spoof on Brexit right? Well done Amber.’
Another anti-Brexit voice going by the name of Roaming Cloud added: ‘Has the CEO of the pier considered their position?’
Other wags suggested Rudd had made a ‘pierless analogy’ and ‘deserved a pierage’ for the letter.
The Huffington Post said Rudd ‘appeared to be throwing serious shade out about Brexit’ while the Telegraph agreed that the work and pensions secretary was ‘using concern among locals about the future of Hastings pier to make a wider point about the Brexit talks’.
Tensions have been building between Hastings residents and the pier’s owner, businessman Abid Gulzar, who has been nicknamed Goldfinger because of his penchant for the precious metal.
At the turn of the year, local news reported that a woman had been charged with damaging Gulzar’s gold Mercedes – described by the businessman as ‘the most photographed car in East Sussex’.
Following the pier’s closure over the festive period, Friends of Hastings Pier, a group that raised nearly £500,000 in a bid to buy the site and keep it open to the public for free, called on Gulzar to be ‘transparent’ over the pier’s future.
But in an interview the Guardian in January, Gulzar hit back at residents who he said wanted ‘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.’
Earlier this year, dRMM’S Alex de Rijke spoke 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.
Hastings Pier by dRMM ph4
Source: Jim Stephenson