Ever thought of buying something on the south coast? How about a pier? A proper, good, old-fashioned Victorian pier.
Perhaps Hastings Pier, designed and built in 1872 and currently undergoing a £13.9 million renovation programme following years of neglect by absent landlords and a devastating fire three years ago.
You can’t buy the whole thing, but you can become a shareholder in the company that will own the pier. The good people of Hastings have battled over many years to raise the renovation funds and are now £500,000 away, which will take the form of a community share issue, ensuring local involvement for the future.
Plans for the pier range from the obvious, such as a proper deckchair rental operation, through to a microbrewery (pier beer), a mirrored visitor pavilion with rooftop viewing deck, farmers’ markets, an outdoor cinema, performance spaces and Christmas fairs, all the way to interesting technical advances.
Pictured above: Hastings Pier as it was, courtesy of Hastings Museum and Art Gallery
An app will turn any view on the pier seen through a mobile or tablet into an antique image, using archive photography from the heritage centre the pier will house. Another will reveal the steelwork beneath the planking. And a less high-tech innovation is the possible use of glass as a part of the decking to give that real walking on water experience.
From its opening in 1872 through to closure in 2006, Hastings Pier was the centre of tourism and entertainment for much of the south of England. Originally part of the Victorian seaside boom, it evolved with the times and became an icon of rock and pop music well into the 1970s. Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Genesis and Pink Floyd all played the pier; the last time Syd Barrett played with the Floyd was on Hastings Pier.
It’s a canny investment, as well as a generous one: Enterprise Investment Status (EIS) status should be awarded shortly so there are tax advantages in the investment, and the plans are to offer prudent interest returns as the pier develops through the share system.
The pier will join the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings as a modern icon of art, culture, regeneration and the renewal of the English coastal tradition, with a 21st-century take on what the Victorians did for us.
A substantial shareholding in the pier will do a great deal of good for Hastings: the more attractive and cutting-edge the pier, the more visitors to the town, the longer they stay and the more money they will leave behind. After several bad years, this project allows Hastings to peer into a brighter future.