Eastbourne Pier remains closed after fire
The former owner of the fire-damaged Claremont Hotel and Eastbourne Pier boss Abid Gulzar admits he cried when he saw the building alight on Friday morning.
But five days on, Mr Gulzar says he is now concerned he is unable to reopen the pier and does not know how much longer it will have to remain closed.
He says more communication is now needed from the authorities to businesses and nearby residents affected by the latest blaze.
Mr Gulzar, who bought the pier after a huge fire ripped apart the iconic site on July 30 2014, said, “First and foremost I felt total shock and upset as I watched the Claremont Hotel burn. I stood and watched.
“It was a very sad day for Eastbourne and for all the individual businesses and people involved. I do not mind admitting that I cried.
“After all, I owned the hotel for several years and it has remained very close to my heart.
”I invested hundreds of thousands into the Claremont. I absolutely loved the wonderful building.
“Like others have already done, I must praise the emergency services. They all did an absolutely amazing job.”
But now Mr Gulzar is concerned that the area remains sealed off and he cannot reopen Eastbourne Pier.
He said: “Lives must come first and I fully understand that there are still safety concerns about the building.
“I would never want anyone to be put at potential risk in the aftermath of the fire, which has shocked the town.
“But nobody has spoken to me from the authorities as to how long the area will remain sealed off.
“Every day Eastbourne Pier is closed is another day where the business remains challenged.
“Of course, it is having a huge effect.
“I really would appreciate some communication, as I am sure others living nearby would, as to the plan for the coming days and coming weeks.
“I am anxious that we are allowed to reopen Eastbourne Pier as soon as is practically possible and safe.
“But I want to stress the priority must be public safety. It is the lack of communication that is concerning me now.”
Mr Gulzar also fears the fire may have a negative effect on people coming to Eastbourne in the short term.
He said, “A lot of hotel visitors at this time of year are elderly, coming for the early Christmas celebrations.
“They may worry when they have seen the fire pictures in the national media.
“We all know how beautiful Eastbourne seafront is but this is a concern, especially at a time when the town centre is experiencing massive disruption.
“Let me repeat, public safety yes is the number one priority.
“But please can the level of communication rise so we know of a possible plan in the next few days.”
East Sussex Building Control Partnership said this week that in liaison with East Sussex County Council Highways, a cordon remains in place to protect members of the public while structural engineers continue assessing the safety of the building.
A spokesperson said, “Our priority at this current time is the safety of the fire damaged structure. Once the necessary structural support is in place, consideration can be given to the reopening of local roads and businesses which have been affected.”
This morning (Tuesday) East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service left the scene of the Claremont hotel fire but crews will continue to make periodic re-inspections, until further notice.
A spokesperson at the fire service said, “The fire investigation is underway, which will be ongoing, and the incident has been handed back to the hotelier.
“Police and Highways are trying to ease pressure on the town centre by lifting parking restrictions.”