Pier Restoration Will Go Ahead

A fire-ravaged Victorian pier is to be resurrected following the award of a grant of more than £11 million, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced.

The £11.4 million from the HLF will provide the lion's share of the £13.9 million needed to restore the Grade II-listed Hastings Pier in East Sussex by the end of 2014.

The pier has stood as a burnt-out eyesore since it was almost destroyed in an arson attack in October 2010 following years of decay.

Nothing was done by its absent Panama-registered owner, Ravenclaw Investments, to restore the structure, which was once proclaimed "the peerless pier''.

The lack of effort led the local authority, Hastings Borough Council, to seek a compulsory purchase order in order to hand control of the pier to the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust.

Reacting to today's announcement, trust chief executive Simon Opie said: "This is a brilliant decision by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the future of the pier and the future of Hastings.

"The committed support of everyone involved has been crucial to this success and the trust is indebted to a great many people and organisations, whose support we will continue to rely on as the project moves to its next, exciting phase.

"We now need to move quickly to put everything into place to enable us to start work on the pier in spring next year and we very much look forward to having the pier reopened by the end of 2014.''

Carole Souter, chief executive of the HLF, said: "Hastings Pier has lived through over 150 years of history, from gentler Victorian times through to the Swinging Sixties and beyond.

"We're delighted to be backing these ambitious restoration plans which will not only save the fabric of the pier but also put it right back at the heart of the community, providing much-needed opportunities for social and economic regeneration.''

Comedian Jo Brand, who grew up in Hastings, supported the bid to revive the pier. She said she could not wait to see the structure "rise out of the ashes''.

She said: "Hastings Pier was where I spent a great deal of time as a teenager and it was the gathering point for a whole generation looking to see bands and dance the night away.

"So, I suppose it's no surprise that I view it with enormous affection. I was gutted when the pier was gutted and it's really great news that the Heritage Lottery Fund is awarding such a substantial sum of money to help with restoration work.''

Up to 95% of the pier, which had been closed since 2006, was damaged in the arson attack in the early hours of October 5 2010.

Two men, then aged 18 and 19, were arrested shortly afterwards but the Crown Prosecution Service later announced that there was not enough evidence to bring charges.

Designed by Eugenius Birch, the pier opened in 1872 and was originally 910ft (277m) long. In the 20th century the pier hosted a mix of dancing, slot machines, rifle ranges, bowling alleys, bingo, funfair rides - and all-night raves.

It also gained a reputation for staging big-name concerts, with performances from the Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Tom Jones and Cilla Black.

Hastings Borough Council leader Jeremy Birch said: "This is excellent news for Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust, all supporters and, of course, residents of and visitors to Hastings.

"The council's compulsory purchase order has been approved so we are now in a position to hand the pier over to HPWRT.

"We are very pleased to have played an essential part in the process of securing the future of the pier and remain committed to working with HPWRT to raise the matched funding required to complete the first stage of works.''