Saving Hastings Pier
Great news for an East Sussex icon: Hastings Pier is to be fully restored thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of over £11m. The pier was destroyed two years ago by a fire so big that it took four days to put out and was believed, but never proved, to be a case of arson. Its owners appeared to have lost interest - the pier was already in a poor state of repair and had been closed to the public since 2006 - and a few months ago the government allowed Hastings council to issue a compulsory purchase order.
An interim grant has already enabled some structural work to be carried out but the latest cash injection means that Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust can take full ownership, restore the pier to safety and build a new visitor centre. Preserving the original design, engineering and heritage is a priority but the trust is keen to make it a 21st century visitor attraction too. The Western Pavilion was the only part to survive the fire and will become a bar and restaurant.
Despite their place in our hearts piers in this country aren't known for making money and the trust, which is essentially a local charity, is keen to make it a viable attraction both for tourists and for the local community. Experts looked at piers in Japan and Holland for ideas and it's hoped that work will start next spring, so watch this space.
Meanwhile, if you're staying in one of our East Sussex hideaways or just visiting Hastings for the day, there's plenty to see and do there - most famously, of course, the sites connected with the Norman conquest. Battle Abbey and the battlefield are open at weekends through the winter and this wonderfully atmospheric site is well worth a visit, and if access to the battlefield is slightly restricted at the moment due to wet weather you can still walk on part of it and the abbey ruins and visitor centre are as captivating as ever.