Shoot me down in flames if I’m wrong, but when fire swept through Eastbourne Pier on July 30 2014, it was already in a severe state of dilapidation and disrepair after years of negligence and mis-management by Cuerden Leisure.
Criticised by Eastbourne Council only months earlier for failing to meet the standards required of a Grade II* Listed building, this major tourist attraction had become an embarrassment. General manager Christos Stylianou claimed at the time that millions of pounds had been spent on improvements and maintenance and that any structural or aesthetic deterioration had been due to bad weather. Hmmm.
After the fire, David Cameron pledged £2 million to help regenerate Eastbourne, the pier and support those in the town who’d suffered losses. Perhaps assuming that Cuerden would receive a handsome insurance pay-out, EBC were quick to trouser Dave’s cash and it was quickly diverted into Neon Noel, a flashing extravaganza, which lit up the town hall last Christmas. Perhaps a light show on the pier with a firework display and a phoenix rising spectacularly from the ashes rather than a flash-in-the-pan project would have been more appropriate, but that’s just my opinion.
But then, maybe too much to expect from a council that has over the last 20 years sold or demolished buildings of significant architectural, cultural and heritage value: the Devonshire Baths, the Art Deco bus station, the Court House in Avenue and disposed of national treasures such as Belle Tout lighthouse and the Old Towner Gallery – and its treasures – to developers for a song.
I find it extraordinary that a council, which turns a blind eye to boarded-up properties, empty shops, derelict churches, homeless ghettos, neglected parks, litter-strewn pavements and disgusting rubbish along the beach and at either side of the pier, objects to Sheikh Abid Gulzar wanting passionately to restore Eastbourne Pier to its former Victorian glory for the sake of the town, its residents and its visitors. This is sheer hypocrisy.
Mr Gulzar’s plans for the pier may not meet with everyone’s approval and be to everyone’s taste, but having met him I can assure you he wants the very best for Eastbourne and has a heart of gold.
The Grove, Ratton
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