A row has broken out between the owners of Eastbourne Pier and the council after plans to put fairground rides on the seafront attraction in time for the summer season were rejected.
Rumours are also rife that owner Cuerden Leisure is looking at selling the pier as it can see no way of recouping investment spent after last summer’s blaze which destroyed a third of the iconic landmark.
The pier’s management has denied the building is up for sale alongside two others it owns, but the Herald understands there has been some interest from potential buyers.
Rumours that the pier might go up for sale first circulated after the fire last July, but were heightened this month after the council’s planning committee refused to grant listed building consent for the fairground rides on the pier’s decking.
They turned it down because they would have had no control over operating times, could not impose conditions and after a flurry of objections by residents.
Pier general manager Christos Stylianou said there was “shock and disbelief” at the council’s refusal and that having so far “sunk £4million into a high-quality re-build”, it “can now see no way of recouping its investment”. Mr Stylianou said the decision “beggared belief”.
“When I heard the council had refused temporary permission for a handful of children’s rides on the pier I was absolutely stunned,” he said. They were eager for us to re-build the pier as quickly as possible so they could send out a positive message about working together, but now I feel they have completely let us down.”
The pier wanted to put a helter skelter, carousel, waltzers, dodgems and stalls on the decked area where the Blue Room stood.
“English Heritage supported our plans for the rides to help us through the crucial summer period,” said Mr Stylianou, “so why has the planning committee turned it down?
“Are they really saying our wonderful seafront area is not the right place for families and children to have fun?”
Cuerden Leisure believe the decision will impact massively on the popularity and viability of the pier, fear visitor numbers will fall and pier shops, which they say had a “wretched time” during last year’s fire, will once again see trade being knocked sideways.
“On top of all this, the rides would have acted as wind breaks for visitors to the pier,” said Mr Stylianou.
“Without the rides, the wind could whip along the seafront and pose a danger to visitors. To ease this, the pier will have to keep the hoardings up for a much longer period of time than had been planned.
“There is a real question-mark now over the future viability of Eastbourne Pier.
“We are all in a state of complete shock and disbelief especially after all the hard work and huge investment put into getting the pier back open after such a terrible fire.
“This was our chance to begin to recoup some of the £4million invested to date.”
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