Eastbourne should learn from Brighton’s West Pier – strike while the iron’s hot

Posted On 31 Jul 2014 at 12:38 pm

Eastbourne Pier bosses can learn from what went wrong with the West Pier in Brighton – they need to strike while the iron’s hot.

They should already be looking at ways to fund any repairs, restoration or rebuilding even while they are assessing the damage caused by the fire yesterday (Wednesday 30 July).

The owner of Eastbourne Pier, a company called Six Piers, could do worse than look east to see how best to salvage a damaged Eugenius Birch pier.

The pier in Hastings was badly damaged in a fire in October 2010. An application for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund was worked up promptly – and successfully.

Hastings Borough Council threw its weight behind the revival of the pier and a charity has been set up and has made a decent fist of involving the public.

With Airbourne – the Eastbourne air show – due to start in a fortnight, there can be no better time than the town’s biggest crowd-puller to urge the public to show generous support.

A glance to the west offers a different sort of lesson.

When the West Pier was in decline – and when it closed – dithering and delay compounded an already difficult situation.

West Pier 21040212
The old Brighton Borough Council didn’t help – and the rusting remains are a reproach and a reminder of the price of inaction.

The West Pier Trust grew out of public despair and a desire to restore the “grand old lady” of seaside piers to its proper place – looking beautiful and open to the public.

The trust did win lottery funding but before the work could start, the pier was set on fire – twice in six weeks in 2003.

The second arson may have made a traditional restoration impossible but hopes remain that a phoenix will rise from the ashes.

In the first instance, that phoenix will take the form of the i360. Work is finally under way, with Brighton and Hove City Council having played a crucial role in securing the funds.

Yesterday (Wednesday 30 July), a few hours before Eastbourne Pier caught fire, the West Pier Trust sent a message of hope to its members and supporters.

It said: “The board will be sending members a consultation document about feasible options for a new pier in a few days’ time.

“Members will be invited to submit their views and will have until mid September to do so.

“Later in the autumn the consultation will be opened up to the general public.

“We will report on progress at the AGM on (Thursday) 20 November.”

A restoration is no longer possible and a pastiche of Eugenius Birch’s masterpiece looks unlikely.

But as the i360 takes shape, a new pier could be on the horizon.

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