Tuesday, February 4, 2014

People's Pier

When Hastings Pier burnt down in 2010 it had already been closed to the public for four years. If the deserted structure was a harsh reminder that it had seen better days, its blackened and twisted wreckage rendered it a metaphor for the irreversible decline of seaside towns.

Built in 1872, its twin peaks of popularity were between the twentieth century wars, and again in the 1960s and 70s when the end of pier pavilion played host to gigs by a number of high-profile acts. The final Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd performance took place there and the Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Sex Pistols and The Clash all played the pier. After that time, a rapidly changing succession of owners ensured that the pier fell into a spiral of disrepair before closing in 2006.

However, a local campaign to resurrect the pier that had begun after its closure, was given fresh impetus by the fire; now the pier is in local community ownership and on the verge of renovation. With the help of volunteers, fundraisers and local authorities, the Hastings Pier Charity (HCP) has raised £11.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and over £2m from other public and institutional sources. But with a funding gap still to fill, a community share scheme has been launched to enable real local involvement in the new Hastings Pier.

HCP is trying to attract 3,000 ordinary people – be they residents of Hastings, St. Leonards, East Sussex or just lovers of Hastings Pier – to become community shareholders in the People’s Pier. It is hoped the community share scheme will raise £500,000 to develop additional facilities on the pier, such as a children’s play area and a microbrewery.

All community shareholders will be members of HCP and, effectively, owners of the pier. Able to attend the AGM and vote and stand for the Board of Directors, all owners will have one vote, irrespective of the number of community shares they have bought. But these are not shares to make a profit - they cannot be sold on. However, if the pier is making a profit in the future, community shareholders could apply to get their investment back. More importantly, though, it is about having a long term stake in a community asset.

Community shares are available at £1 each for a minimum stake of £100 from Hastings Pier Charity. The offer is open until 5th April 2014.

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