The charitable community benefit society which runs Hastings Pier has just gone into administration – just weeks after it won a prestigious architecture award.
The pier, which dates back to 1872, was owned by a firm registered in Panama before it was closed on safety grounds in 2006 and suffered extensive fire damage in 2010. It was transferred to community ownership in 2013, with 3,000 shareholders buying into the project at £100 a share. This enabled a £14m, Heritage Lottery-backed renovation project to go forward, and it reopened last April.
This year, it won the National Piers Society’s Pier of the Year award and earlier this month picked up the Stirling Prize for a “stunning, flexible” design by dRMM Architects, clad in sustainable timber.
But in October the Hastings Pier Charity was reported to have hit financial difficulties over the summer and had to make some staff redundant.
The charity said it had recently shared a new three-year business plan with the Heritage Lottery Fund, Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council.
The plan demonstrated how the pier could reach self-funding status within three years, the charity said. Proposals were based on the actual income figures of the pier in the last 18 months, building on successes, developing further fundraising projects and with proposals for a new temporary structure capable of weatherproofing events for up to 2,500 people.
These plans required additional grant funding of £800,000 over the next three years to build the Piers capacity as a venue, a visitor attraction and a place where Hastings residents would regularly visit.
In a statement, the charity said it “has always taken the view that it would be wrong to ask community shareholders for more money to fund the ongoing operating costs of Hastings Pier. The major stakeholders did not feel able to support the new three-year plan.
“Sadly, therefore, the Hastings Pier Charity has been placed into administration. The board will do everything to assist the administrator and step down at the end of the year.
“The administrator who has been appointed will now take on the challenge of finding a long-term financial solution to the funding of Hastings Pier.”
It added: “Hastings still has a beautiful, award-winning pier, which will remain open to the public while the administration takes place, and the pier will be fully operational and staff for 2018. Hastings Pier charity board thank our many shareholders, committed staff, talented people and wonderful visitors who shared our vision through the last five years of the project.”