The charity that operates Hastings Pier has gone into administration after it failed to raise the £800,000 required to fund it through to 2021.
The news came less than a month after the pier won the prestigious Stirling architecture prize – and after a number of voices, including Coinslot, had questioned how it could generate the necessary revenue without any traditional amusements.
The attraction only reopened last year after the catastrophic fire that nearly destroyed it entirely in 2010, but speculation surrounding financial difficulties had arisen in October.
Maria Ludkin, chair of Hastings Pier Charity, said that £800,000 had been needed for a three-year plan to enable the pier to reach self-funding status within three years, but hadn’t been found.
In an email to shareholders, she revealed: “We are very sorry to tell you that none of the stakeholders were prepared to commit further funding to our three-year plan at this time.”
Ludkin said it would be wrong to ask community shareholders for more money and, with the charity left without funds to support its proposals, declared it insolvent.
Despite this, the charity’s board of directors confirmed that the pier would remain open and is funded for 2018.
Administrator Smith & Williamson LLP said no employees had been made redundant as a result and that they intend to work with staff, the previous trustees and local stakeholders to guarantee a sustainable future.
Lead administrator Adam Stephens said: “Sadly the charity was unable to finalise and implement a new successful business plan. The trustees sought professional advice and this advice suggested that administration would better position the charity to restructure itself and move forward to a successful outcome for this heritage asset.
“We want to acknowledge the fantastic work done by the board of trustees of the charity. Their work has created an amazing bridgehead for us in our search for a new long term sustainable solution for the pier.”
Smith & Williamson LLP also revealed it had already spoken with one party it described as “seriously interested” in the pier, and anticipated extensive talks with local stakeholders including Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council to work towards finding a long-term sustainable solution for it.
Just days before the insolvency was announced, the GMB union – a major shareholder in Hastings Pier Charity – had urged Hastings Borough Council to offer financial support to the three-year plan.
Charles Harrity, GMB senior organiser, said: “It is a crying shame that after the brave efforts of all who have volunteered and collected money and in particular the local people of Hastings, the local council aren’t supporting them by also investing in the pier.
“Thanet Council, for instance, has invested £4m in the regeneration of Dreamland, with a view to building a tourist attraction and bringing money into the local economy.”
Home secretary and Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd commented: “Now we need a solution for all parties to work together towards which will provide it with a sustainable future. I will certainly work as hard as I can to make this happen.
“The Heritage Lottery Fund has stepped in to provide funding for the year. We need to use that opportunity to find a sustainable solution.”