Community shares bid to revamp pier
Plans to raise money to help renovate a Victorian seaside pier damaged by fire are receiving waves of interest.
A community share offer has been launched in a bid to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to rebuild Hastings pier in East Sussex, which was almost destroyed in a blaze three years ago.
More than £13 million is being raised through the Heritage Lottery Fund and other public and institutional sources, but shares are now being sold to the community, starting at £100 each.
Simon Opie, chief executive of Hastings Pier Charity, said: "A thriving pier makes a huge difference to a seaside town. We were horrified to see neglect and fire destroy the once popular pier but now we aim to create a people's pier, an attraction fit for the 21st century.
"We are delighted with the commitment and support seen so far, with £11.4 million raised from the Heritage Lottery Fund and over £2 million from other public and institutional sources.
"This money will renovate the pier, creating a spectacular walkway above the sea. It is our aim now for the community share offer to fill a funding gap of between £200,000 and £500,000 which will enable us to add facilities and amenities to the structure and make the pier a really attractive place to visit.
"Renovation of the pier started in August this year and is expected to be finished in spring 2015. However, if the pier is to survive another 140 years it will be because it gets used and that's where we believe community ownership can be vital."
Michael Fairclough, of the Co-operative Group, which is supporting the venture through its Enterprise Hub, said: "Increasingly communities are working together, acting as powerful catalysts for change capable of overcoming many of the challenges facing society, the environment and economy.
"Co-operation can be key to bringing about the changes that people want to see in their communities."
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "Three years ago the fire on Hastings pier looked set to condemn it to permanent closure and dereliction, creating an eyesore at the heart of the town.
"Now with the tremendous work of local people, the council and Hastings Pier & White Rock Charity it is going be turned from eyesore to restored Victorian treasure, bringing more jobs and tourism to the town.
"The sale of community shares in the pier marks another important step towards restoration and shows the powerful co-operation between local people and the pier charity."