Hastings Pier – what a mess. Our own local version of Brexit

Ok, so I said yesterday, gloomily, that I wouldn’t write about the Pier. The weather is even gloomier – but a Pier update is needed. This morning Philosopher and I went down to have a look at a peaceful protest – a large crowd of several hundred, with lots of dogs, ‘queuing’ outside the closed gates.

Yes, the Pier has been closed since before Christmas, despite the fact that we have had some very mild weather. There wasn’t even a Christmas tree on there…. After Christmas Mr Gulzar abruptly announced it would remain closed until March, for ‘essential repairs’.

Outside the locked gates – at Christmas – it was sunny

    Battleaxe has written two recent posts about this sorry situation. The first was just after the administrators sold the Pier to Mr Gulzar, for either £50,000 or £60,000, depending on where you look. That post gave all the background about the sale. For the second post, Battleaxe did try to give the new owner the benefit of the doubt. It was the summer, it was sunny, and I quite liked the kitsch gold teapots in the cafe. I understand that many of them have since been stolen…..
    The current situation….
    Since then, things have got substantially worse, and the Pier saga has been all over the national media. The stories had varying degrees of accuracy.
    Mr Gulzar, and his little side-kick [Lord] Brett McLean (why are we stuck in this unicorn land of Fake Titles? Mr McLean is no more a Lord than Mr Gulzar is a Sheik) have not endeared themselves to the locals who had an interest in the Pier. The new owner is clearly not interested in interacting with the community, and doesn’t see any reason why he should. He declines to give any details as to the nature of the repairs needed.
    One might suspect that he is not being entirely truthful. The Pier was only done up at vast cost a short while ago, and can’t have had such severe problems to warrant its closure for months on end. Sure, there was a small fire in the cafe, but the Pier did re-open after that… If he had told us earlier that he planned to close in January to do improvement works, the quietest time of the year, people might have accepted it.
    Also, Mr Gulzar plainly does not have the resources to develop the Pier in such a way as to make it financially viable. He has put in a planning application for five Skinner’s sheds… one of which is an existing ice-cream kiosk that he had no previous permission to erect, and the only other new things that have appeared is a herd of tacky plastic animals…. The central building is empty, with rumours that it will become an amusement arcade. So much for our Stirling prize-winning architectural jewel….
    The staff have all left, and some have already won employment tribunal claims against Gulzar for unpaid holiday pay etc.
    Worst of all, the Pier maintenance team have also left/been dismissed. Without them, there is a real danger of the vulnerable Victorian super-structure falling into disrepair. Who knows if it is even properly insured…..
     So, what has been the reaction…. 
     Clearly, some of the Hastings population don’t care – they call it a ‘plank’ anyway, and just want an amusement arcade, hot dogs and a rebuilt ballroom like in the good old days (Let’s Get Our Pier Back…sound familar? I guess it’s the usual people…).
     However, plenty of others do care, and relevant social media groups are very hostile and frequently vitriolic towards Mr Gulzar, which makes him yet more defensive and uncommunicative.
     People blame Hastings Borough Council for not ‘doing something’. Battleaxe was speaking to Council Leader Peter Chowney the other week – there is nothing the council could/can do – the Pier passed from the defunct charity to the administrators, who sold it to Mr Gulzar. Now, it is his. Sure, I suppose HBC could have put in a bid for it to the administrators but read Battleaxe’s lips…. the COUNCIL DOES NOT HAVE THE MONEY… We have to blame the administrators for the current mess.
      Mr Gulzar is what he is, and he won’t be changing his ways. As far as I can tell he has a questionable track record as a businessman. He had no viable plans for developing the Pier, and how the administrators thought he was a fit person to run it is a total mystery. They can’t have done any due diligence checks….
      However, as I say, he is what he is. Harassing and abusing him will bring no results, and only make things worse…  It is not his fault for taking the opportunity to buy the Pier.
      That’s why I wanted to go down today and have a look. Indeed it was a peaceful protest – I recognised a number of friends in the crowd. I saw Peter Chowney, and I gather Amber Rudd was also down there.

Peter Chowney in the line

      What will happen? 
       Nobody knows, but it doesn’t look good for our poor Pier.  It is possible that the group that made the alternative bid, the Friends of Hastings Pier, could get themselves together if Mr Gulzar decided to sell it, but the signs are he won’t sell… it’s a right mess – as I said at the top, our own little Brexit……

Today – deserted.

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