Campaigners in Hastings have reacted with fury to news that their bid to keep the seaside town’s award-winning pier owned by the community has failed.
Locals said the decision by administrators to approve a hotel tycoon’s bid flies “in the face of public opinion, common sense and business sense.”
Entrepreneur Abid Gulzar has owned nearby Eastbourne Pier since 2015 and owns hotels in the town.
His bid is believed to have been below £100,000, despite Hastings Pier opening in 2016 following a £12.4m renovation financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Friends of Hastings Pier reportedly raised more than £477,000 of a £500,000 target to buy the pier and keep it open without an entrance fee.
The pier’s renovation was a huge success and it was awarded the architect’s equivalent of an Oscar - the Stirling Prize - for outstanding design last year.
But the pier’s charity owners were hit by financial problems and administrators were called in to process a sale.
The locals’ community bid saw the attraction dubbed a “people’s pier”.
Adam Stephens, of administrators Smith and Williamson, confirmed the transfer of ownership and said: “The bid we received from Mr Gulzar, and on the recommendation of my agent, was able to best demonstrate the capacity to take the pier forward.
“Overall, Mr Gulzar demonstrated the best immediate financial capability as well as the operational capacity and experience, including from running Eastbourne Pier.
“It is anticipated that significant cash for working capital and investment purposes, amounting to over a million pounds, would be required to make the pier sustainable.
“We have been working hard with all stakeholders to create other protections for the Pier’s future and heritage assets.
“Therefore, the sale is subject to a reversion clause, which means that in the event that the pier is resold in the next two years, there are certain provisions which are in favour of Hastings Borough Council acquiring it.
“We also want to highlight that the key heritage assets of the pier will be preserved and put on permanent display in the Hastings Museum, allowing future generations the opportunity to understand and appreciate the significant cultural impact of the pier.”
The Friends of Hastings Pier group responded to the news on Twitter: “Very sad to report that the Hastings Pier Charity administrators have flown in the face of public opinion, common sense and business sense. We shall regroup to consider next steps.”
Dubbed “goldfinger” due to his obsession with the colour gold, Gulzar sparked controversy when he re-painted his Eastbourne attraction without planning permission.
Gulzar, who reportedly drives a gold Mercedes, has hinted he intends to introduce the colour in Hastings.
He also banned dogwalking, fishing and picnics on Eastbourne Pier - and threatened to introduce an entrance fee.
Originally opened in 1872, Hastings Pier was damaged by fire twice, most recently in 2010.
It has played host to concerts for the likes of The Rolling Stones and Tom Jones and was a landing site for Second World War refugees.