CAROLINE ANSELL: £2M was never just for the pier

Caroline Ansell SUS-150511-171150001

Caroline Ansell SUS-150511-171150001

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In the autumn of 2014, over a year ago, the local council organised a consultation, asking the Eastbourne public what they think the £2M pier fire grant, announced by the Prime Minister during his visit to Eastbourne should be spent on.

It was always clear that it would be spent for the benefit of the town’s tourist trade, and not specifically on the pier itself, the rebuilding of which was due to be covered by the insurance monies (and clearly, as a private business, weren’t entitled to be given large chunks of Government finances!).

The good people of Eastbourne suggested some 30 schemes, which was shortlisted to eight following a process that looked at strategic fit, achievability, affordability and acceptability. The cabinet of Eastbourne Council confirmed the final projects that were to receive funding, (later agreed by the Dept of Communities and Local Government upon presentation of a full business case), and these are;

· Repairs and refurbishment to allow access to the Camera Obscura on the pier (£65k)

· A sculpture of remembrance for the pier (£22K)

· A history trail celebrating the town’s diverse history (£47K)

· Stars and Ice Christmas programme, including Neon Noel light show and Christmas markets (£137K)

· New flagship restaurant on the Wish Tower site (£1.2m)

· New on-screen live information facility to be installed in hotels and other locations (£152K)

· A rebrand and migration of the VisitEastbourne.com website to a new platform that will be accessible on all types of devices and supported by a marketing campaign (£249k)

There was also a hardship fund for the business owners on the pier who were disadvantaged (<£110K), and some admin costs (<£18K).

For clarity, whilst the money is allocated it has not all been distributed yet, in fact only a small percentage has, and is being held by the council pending draw down when the above projects are ready to go.

So talk of the money going directly to rebuild the pier was never true, and this information has been in the public domain for more than a year.

Like other Herald readers I imagine, there are projects I would have liked to see come through which didn’t make the final list and, I still regret that back in the day the council moved so speedily to condemn and demolish the former Wish Tower Cafe.

Aside the iconic view, what had made it such a special place was that it was available- freely- for people to enjoy the beauty and peace of the seafront – the vision of the Foyle legacy which funded its construction; going forward it’s not easy to see how this community provision can be reconciled with future commercial interests.

But, I am really looking forward to seeing the chosen projects now come to fruition and inviting the PM back to the town.

As ever, I am interested in your views, you can contact me anytime at office@carolineansell.co.uk