Crowdfunding campaign for Stirling Prize winner still needs tens of thousands of pounds

A bid to keep dRMM’s Stirling Prize-winning Hastings Pier in community ownership faces a race against the clock to secure tens of thousands of pounds in funding.

The Friends of Hastings Pier have set themselves a deadline of 9pm tomorrow to raise £500,000 to support their business case for securing the freehold of the pier and supporting its further development – including new dRMM buildings.

As of today the crowdfunding campaign still needs to raise around £100,000 to hit the target. The friends group says the pier could be “sold off to the highest bidder” if it does not get across the line in time.

The business case involves introducing new structures to drive revenue, including a new rooftop canopy for the pier’s Belvedere Deck and the creation of a timber-and-ETFE pavilion building for food, drinks and nightclub uses opposite the pier’s Victorian Pavilion.

Further proposals for developing the pier include sheltered furniture and a mobile bar for the seaward end, which will be kept open to stage events such as music festivals. dRMM said it would contribute its design and planning-application fees towards the friends’ group’s fundraising efforts.

Hastings Pier phase 2, by dRMM

Source: dRMM

Hastings Pier phase 2, by dRMM

Grade II-listed, Hastings Pier was closed to the public in 2008 following severe storm damage and went on to be virtually destroyed by fire two years later. A subsequent funding drive saw local residents raise around £600,000 to add to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to bring the structure back into use with a scheme dRMM was picked to design.

FOHP spokeswoman Jess Steele said the group planned to run the pier as a “guardian freeholder” that would lease the pier to a commercial operator.

“In order to protect the pier forever, we are now suggesting that Foreshore Trust becomes the ultimate freeholder and awards a 150-year full repairing peppercorn lease to FOHP Trust which amounts to a ‘virtual freehold’,” she said.

“FOHP Trust will then lease the ‘top’ (deck and above) to a commercial operating company in which it owns 90% of the shares. This is an excellent way of spreading risks and responsibilities to where they are best managed, allocating the commercial responsibility to the operator, the delivery and fundraising responsibility to FOHP Trust, and the long-term ownership responsibility to a stable charity that already owns all the rest of the foreshore.”

However the group says it needs the pledges identified for the move by tomorrow to demonstrate it can fund the pier in the short term.

Despite being the owner of a project that scooped the UK’s most prestigious architecture accolade last year, Hastings Pier Charity went into administration less than a month after dRMM picked up the prize on October 31.

The move followed the failure of its three-year business plan to win the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council. The plan had required £800,000 of additional grant funding over three years to “build the pier’s capacity as a venue, a visitor attraction and a place where Hastings residents would regularly visit”.

Hastings Pier - before

Source: Alex de Rijke

Ravaged by fire: Hastings Pier before dRMM worked its magic

The prize-winning first phase of dRMM’s work saw it repair and rebuild the pier’s 19th-century structural ironwork and transform the surviving Victorian Pavilion into a glazed café-bar. It added a visitor centre clad in timber – much of it reclaimed from the original pier and bearing scorch marks. The rest of the pier deck has been left open as an uninterrupted and flexible space for events. Reclaimed timber was used to create the pier’s new furniture, made locally as part of an employment initiative.

RIBA president Ben Derbyshire, who chaired the 2017 Stirling Prize jury, said the pier was “a masterpiece of regeneration and inspiration”. 

He said dRMM and the community had “transformed a neglected wreck into a stunning, flexible new pier to delight and inspire visitors and local people”.