The new owner of Eastbourne Pier has claimed David Cameron told him a £2m fund given to the town after last year’s fire was intended for the attraction’s owner.
The claim, by the hotelier Sheikh Abid Gulzar, comes as an East Sussex business leader calls on Eastbourne Borough Council to give the majority of the fund to the pier’s new owner.
The money, which was given to the town after Prime Minister David Cameron visited Eastbourne in the aftermath of the pier fire last year, is managed by the council.
The council has used the money to boost the town’s tourist trade including through the recent Neon Noel display.
But Mr Gulzar claims the Prime Minister intended the money to go to the attraction’s owner rather than the town as a whole.
He said, “I spoke to David Cameron when he visited our great town, and he left me under no illusion that this money would go to whoever owned the pier, whether that be me, the previous owner, or indeed anybody else,”
Brett McLean – chair of East Sussex Economy Advisory Board and a member of Locate East Sussex – backed Mr Gulzar, calling on the council to use most of the remaining fund to support the pier and its new owner.
In a joint letter to council chief executive Rob Cotterill and David Cameron, Mr McLean says the money was intended to rebuild the fire-struck pier and should be given to Mr Gulzar.
He said, “Following a recent site visit to Eastbourne Pier, I can clearly see that The Lions Group under Mr Gulzar have undertaken major cosmetic refurbishments and some minor structural improvements using their own resources.
“I can’t help but wonder what happened to the £2 million cash boost promised by Her Majesty’s Government when the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer visited Eastbourne.”
He added, “Eastbourne Borough Council should be helping to support Eastbourne Pier given the fact that the ‘Sunshine Coast’ would not look so sunny without a fully functional visitor attracting pier and therefore should be more forth coming with a major percentage of the £2 million to assist with the refurbishment of the Lions People’s Pier.”
Mr Gulzar said he is pleased that Mr McLean has taken up the case.
He said, “Hand on heart, if I was given this £2 million, I could do so much to benefit the pier for the town.
“Do people really realise that this money isn’t for the pier, and that it is being spent elsewhere.
“I am fully supportive of the Chamber of Commerce when they plan successful Christmas events.
“But I understand over a two-year period the cost is £137k, and it is coming from the pier fund. ‘Is that really right?’, I ask the public.
“I simply say – any of that £2 million coming to the pier would go to the pier, every single penny, make no mistake about that. There is so much that could be done, the money could be spent so wisely.”
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