On 1st May owner Sheikh Gulzar was given planning permission to turn the current visitor centre building on Hastings pier into a “family entertainments centre”, i.e. effectively to install amusement arcade machines there. 

PICTURE: Dave Young

A number of objections had been raised, with arguments that there is already a surfeit of such machines elsewhere in the town, that their advent on the pier would lose it much of the character that had won the RIBA Stirling Prize less than two years earlier, and that further stoking of gambling addictions should not be encouraged. At the planning hearing Cllr Ruby Cox endorsed these objections to vote against grant of permission. She also pointed out that the arcade use would forestall other community activities which had been conducted there before the pier went into administration. But the other committee members voted in favour. The pier, they said, needed income to survive. 

“If you go to Eastbourne pier or to Brighton pier”, declared Cllr Matthew Beaver. “the one thing that attracts people are the amusements”.

In the aftermath, over the bank holiday weekend of 4th/5th May, at least half the length of the pier was barred to the public while facilities were set up to host two music events –“Pier Jam” on the Saturday night and “Garage Nation” on the Sunday, with an influx of party-goers arriving from out of town. 

Adverse weather conditions on the Saturday – high winds and hail showers – caused the first of these events to be cancelled late in the afternoon. Organisers One UK Events issued a statement explaining that wind speeds had reached “dangerous levels”, that the temporary structures had become “unstable” , and that proceeding with the show would have “posed a risk to public safety”. “Garage Nation” went ahead on the Sunday as planned.

There was no suggestion that the condition of the pier itself contributed to the safety risk. But news of Saturday’s late cancellation won’t have encouraged future promoters to gamble on better weather next time. 

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