Hastings Pier reopens after £14.2m redevelopment

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Media captionThe first visitors to the new complex gave it the thumbs-up

Hastings Pier has reopened, nearly six years after it was gutted in a devastating fire.

The 144-year-old structure was almost destroyed by the blaze in 2010.

But after a £14.2m redevelopment over more than two years, the attraction is once again open to the public.

The former pavilion - now a restaurant and bar - welcomed its first visitors and people were able to stroll around the entire pier for the first time in a decade.

Image caption People were queuing long before the gates opened at 10:00 BST
Image caption There was a stream of people keen to get an early glimpse of the new-look pier
Image caption The pier is being opened in stages
Image caption Thousands of people bought £100 shares in the so-called "people's pier"

There was a queue of people waiting to be among the first to set foot on the iconic pier when the gates opened at 10:00 BST.

Many had visited the pier in its heyday and were excited to be back.

One woman said she used to take her son there, while another visitor reminisced about riding his motorbike on the pier on his way to the Saturday night dances.

BBC South East reporter Piers Hopkirk said: "The first thing that strikes you about walking on this new-look pier is the sheer scale of it. When you see it, you really start to see the potential of this place."

Image caption In the coming weeks, traders will occupy the beach hut kiosks on the new pier
Image caption A small funfair was among the attractions

A spokesman for the Hastings Pier Charity (HPC), which runs it, said: "We hope it will re-energise Hastings, not just as a tourist destination, but it gives a fantastic new facility to local people, as well."

Hastings Borough Council estimates the attraction, rebuilt over two-and-a-half years, will generate more than £1m a year for the local economy.

After a prosperous period in the mid-20th century, the pier, built in 1872, suffered a decline as tourists set their sights farther afield.

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Media captionPier-lovers sent in their photographic memories.

And by 2006 it had fallen into such disrepair that it was closed for safety reasons.

Although it reopened briefly, the gates were closed for good in 2008 and when fire wrecked 95% of what was left in 2010, its future looked bleak.

But the council compulsorily purchased it from itd owners in 2012, and the so-called "people's pier" is now in the hands of the Hastings Pier Charity and more than 3,000 shareholders, who bought into the project at £100 a share.

What the reopening will mean for Hastings

  • More than 300,000 extra visitors to Hastings per year, according to the Hastings Pier Charity
  • An extra £1.2m for the local economy (Hastings Borough Council figures)
  • Creation of 40 new jobs (Hastings Borough Council)

Lawrence Bell, who runs the White Rock Hotel near the seafront, said the 2010 fire had galvanised the campaign to save the building.

He said: "It was a symbol of Hastings in decline and all the problems that we have had in the past.

"But there is so much going on now in Hastings. It's one of the jewels in the crown of what is an amazing little town on the seaside."

Image copyright RNLI
Image caption The 144-year-old structure was almost destroyed by the blaze in 2010
Image copyright Hastings Pier Charity
Image caption Restoration work began at the beginning of 2014

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