Friends of Hastings Pier look to the Foreshore Trust to back their bid

Emma Harwood reports

The Foreshore Trust, a charity managed by Hastings Borough Council that owns all the land along the seafront from Rock-a-Nore to Bulverhythe, could play the key role in pulling Hasting pier out of administration and returning it to community ownership.

The administrators Smith and Williamson have been putting pressure on Friends of Hastings Pier (FOHP) to back their plans with funding of £1.2 million, and the group is still urgently appealing to supporters to donate to their cause on crowdfunder, with a target of reaching £500,000 by 30th May. But under dramatically revised plans presented to the administrators at a meeting last Friday (11th May), FOHP proposed that a newly formed charitable FOHP Trust would purchase the pier and Hastings Pier Charity’s assets for £1. The freehold guardianship of the structure would then be handed to the Foreshore Trust which would lease the top deck back to the FOHP Trust as its commercial operator.

The Trust currently gains around £1.4 million in annual revenue from car parking and other rental streams along the seafront, and could offer the stable financial backing which the administrators are insisting upon, according to this revised proposal.

“This arrangement spreads risk appropriately, allocating the commercial responsibility to the operator, the delivery responsibility to FOHP Trust, and the long-term ownership responsibility to a stable charity that already owns all the rest of the foreshore”, the new plan states.

FOHP spokesperson Jess Steele told HIP that the group had been in talks with the Foreshore Trust prior to drawing up the new plans. However borough council elections have prevented councillors from fully considering the proposal. She added: “the meeting with administrators was warm and positive, although time is not on our side.”

Council spokesman Kevin Boorman said that councillors on the board of trustees could not comment until new portfolio holders had been announced at the borough council’s annual meeting which was due to take place on Wednesday 16th May.  But he added that the incumbent chair of the council charities committee, and therefore of the Trust, Cllr Sue Beaney, was likely to retain her position.

In the meantime a petition started by designer and FOHP supporter Philip Oakley is demanding that the Foreshore Trust should discuss the pier and its future with administrators as a matter of urgency. The petition had  gained over 150 signatures in a few days. 

He told HIP that the Trust, whose programme of expenditure covers a range of community causes and projects, needed to be more pro-active in supporting FOHP’s bid to keep the pier in community hands. The petition states: “Until now, the Trust has not spoken to the Administrators of the Pier, even though it previously provided financial help to the Pier Charity. The Trust has both the resources and the mandate to take on this structure as a freeholder and, perhaps, to find a suitable operator for it under terms that can ensure its maintenance, quality and public access. It seems common sense that the organisation that owns land around the Pier should be engaging with the Administrators.”

To sign the petition, visit  https://chn.ge/2wvFL6R;
to donate to FOHP’s bid, visit: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/fohp2018