In HIP 201 we reported on the recent victory in the Employment Tribunal of the former Hastings Pier engineers Peter Wheeler and Daisy Hill in their claims against Lions Hastings Pier Limited (LHPL) dating back to 2018. This outcome has released Mr Wheeler to talk further openly about on-going maintenance issues at the pier. It has also highlighted once again the controversies over the sale of the pier earlier that year to Sheikh Abid Gulzar, who remains owner of the structure and sole director of LHPL as its operating company.

Since the engineers’ departure, the superstructure of the pier (decking and above) has been leased to Hastings Pier Entertainments Limited, a company operated by local entrepreneurs James Tovey and Mustafa Abdelhadi. However, it may be safely assumed that this lease does not require them to undertake any maintenance of the substructure. That no doubt remains the responsibility of Mr Gulzar and his company.

CREDIT: Dave Young

Mr Wheeler advises that although the substructure is currently safe and strong, it requires constant nursing – what he calls Engineered Preventative Maintenance, see below – if it is not to return within a period of years to its pre-restoration state of dilapidation. Mr Gulzar has not divulged publicly what maintenance programme, if any, he or his company has instituted since 2018, and none has been observable. So who or what could compel it?

No conditions 

Mr Gulzar bought the pier without any apparent conditions as to future maintenance. That was, in the opinion of many observers at the time of the sale, a scandalous dereliction of responsibility on the part of the National Lottery. They, as major creditors in the insolvent administration of the previous owners Hastings Pier Charity, had power to instruct the administrators to impose conditions on the buyer, but failed to do so. Without such conditions, Mr Gulzar is under no obviously enforceable legal obligation. 

Section 48 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 does, however, give both local and central government powers to serve notices requiring works to a listed building which are considered “reasonably necessary for [its] proper preservation” and to acquire it by compulsory purchase if such works are not undertaken. 

Hastings Borough Council have shown no appetite over the last four years to attempt intervention in Mr Gulzar’s dealings with the pier. They have granted such minor planning applications as he has put their way and otherwise kept their noses clean. The new administration headed by Cllr Paul Barnett could try getting tougher, drawing up a preventative maintenance programme and insisting on its implementation. But, if so, it would be a major change of policy.

Peter Wheeler’s advice – Engineered Preventative Maintenance: 

The precious part of the Pier is the grade 2-listed substructure with the cast iron vertical and raker columns. These must be protected from abrasion by the shingle and from wear by loose clamps for the horizontal and cross bracing. The reconstruction from 2013-2016 installed some 3,000 tons of steel and nine piles, each driven 12.5m into the seabed.

As the bracing is in an accelerated low water corrosion zone, the corrosion of nuts washers and bolts is very high and a continuous programme of tightening and replacement is necessary, or else each wave causes fretting and wear. The loose brackets grind into the columns, significantly weakening them.

At the base of each column a sacrificial abrasion guard should protect the columns from shingle abrading at the ebb and flow of each wave – they become shiny after a storm as the rust is blasted off. There are many guards missing, having worn away, and the columns become wafer-thin at beach level before collapsing.

Jetsam in the sea gets hooked onto the structure, and this increases the stress on the structure for each surging wave and needs to be removed regularly.

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