“A Wasted Opportunity” Says Prize-Winning Architect Reported by Emma Harwood

Sheikh Abid Gulzar’s proposals to build five temporary sheds on Hastings pier have been supported by the council’s Marketing and Major Projects Manager, Kevin Boorman, despite over 50 objections so far being placed by members of the public on the council website.
Plans for the RIBA Stirling Prize-winning pier – which has now been re-registered as an asset of community value by the council – are set to be considered by the planning committee on 12th December.
Mr Boorman’s comment in support of the scheme, which consists of the erection of five Skinner’s sheds, is as follows: “I obviously acknowledge the historic listed status of the pier, but also accept that it needs to be managed in a sustainable way, and without investment in visitor facilities is unlikely to generate the income needed to maintain and develop it further. I also note that all of the kiosks are removable, and that no permanent or irreversible changes are planned.”
But the proposals have come under heavy criticism from the architect who designed the upper part of the pier, Alex De Reijke of dRMM Architects.
“After many years of hard work and public money to rebuild Hastings Pier as a quality venue for large scale events, it appears the new owner wants to populate it with fenced fibreglass animals, sheds and slot machines. What a wasted opportunity, and insensitive to the carefully created character of this unique listed pier,” said Mr De Reijke.
Other objectors have questioned why the council validated the application in the first place, pointing out that Mr Gulzar’s application contains many errors and omissions. They highlight an inadequate Heritage Statement, revealing that he has failed to consult with any relevant conservation or heritage bodies.
Meanwhile community group Friends of Hastings Pier (FoHP), which will be holding a meeting on 1st December at the White Rock Hotel, are concerned Mr Gulzar’s proposals will not generate enough income to pay for the pier’s upkeep.

“His plans for the pier do not appear to be on a scale or of a type fit to generate the investment necessary for its longevity,” said James Chang on their behalf.  “We would like to be able to support him in his role as current custodian of the Pier. But we need more transparency between the owner and the community about maintenance and about his vision for the pier’s future. We have approached him several times to start a dialogue, but have yet to hear from him.” The group have further concerns following news that the three-strong maintenance team are not currently present to take care of it. Chief Engineer Peter Wheeler, who explains the challenges facing piers in our feature opposite, said he could not comment further at this stage.
However FoHP called the team, ‘a trusted pair of hands who made an invaluable contribution from the beginnings of the pier’s restoration.”
“We would like to thank Peter, Francesca and Kate for their vigilance and constant care in looking after the pier,” Mr Chang added. Mr Gulzar’s management team was contacted for comment but had not responded by the time of going to press.

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