Another pier owner hits the financial wall, wanting to charge for entry in place of creativity


Sheikh Abid Gulzar says he has signed papers to buy the pier



£2 POUNDS TO SEA WHAT? - According to many media articles Mr Gulzar has suggested that he might charge one or two pounds for people to visit his pier in Eastbourne. If he does, he will be the first guardian who stooped that low. Apart from showing a singular lack of imagination as to how to use the heritage asset to generate an income, the statements, even if made in conversation, reveal that there was no plan that might see the Blue Room restored and that in fact he appears to be relying on opinion that there is no legal obligation to restore the monument destroyed by fire in July of 2014. Mr Gulzar has said as much on camera. The latest murmuring is using the flat deck where the Blue Room should be for helicopter flights - as if any Council would approve such inappropriate use in this location. Why though would anyone suggest such a thing, unless they had run out of ideas and are pushing the boundaries to worry Eastbourne BC and anyone else concerned to see our heritage restored?




There are of course both legal and moral obligations when it comes to repairing a nationally recognized heritage asset. It is not something to enter into lightly. Historic England have made it plain that the coherence of the style is an all important feature of this important Eugenius Birch pier. It would be out of character to seek to do anything that would change the now classic skyline - that is of course missing at present. Permission was granted on a temporary basis, to remove the steel structure and install boarding, with the aim of getting people back onto the pier while arrangements could be made to put the amusement arcade building back.




GOLDEN HAND SHEIKH - Obviously pleased to see each other after Mr Gulzar's 70th birthday party, Lord Brett McLean shakes hands with the new pier owner. Lord Brett of Hastings is Chairman of the East Sussex (County Council) Economic Advisory Board. Sheik Abid Gulzar is very fond of gold decorations and soon set about picking out lion carving on the pier in his favourite shade.




SMOKE SCREEN - It all smacks of a done deal. But what is that deal? The objective appears to be to make it seem reasonable not to restore our heritage. We all knew that the £2 million from David Cameron and Mr Osborne was not to be spent on the pier, but on the traders who suffered loss as a result of the fire - or more correctly - it was a political gambit to win Mr Cameron a few more votes when it counts. We are sure he did not care where the money went, so long as the Council made it appear well spent.


Why though bring up the subject pf Cameron's two mil, but to deflect attention from the main event, and that is of course the Blue Room. Eastbourne Borough Council does not have a big pot of gold - as well Mr. Gulzar knows, so why mention that except to score a few brownie points, probably a suggested ploy at some point by his PR team, a team capable of conjuring up a newspaper article to make it appear as though the local authority should cough up, with the intention of making the public believe that it is their shout - another smoke screen deflection. Whereas, the opposite is true. The Council were astute enough not to buy the pier because they thought it might end up being a burden on the taxpayer, and their job is to ensure that it does not become a burden to ratepayers - but at the same time make sure that this important community asset is restored.


The burden is squarely on the shoulders of whoever stood up to face the restoration challenge. There is no mileage in complaining about the responsibilities after the event. One should have thought about that before accepting the mantle of savior. What any pier like this needs is either a wealthy benefactor who will not complain about spending a few million here and there, or management with serious vision. Alternatively, we might adopt the formula employed at Hastings, with a not for profit group taking over the pier.


It appears from what the public have seen so far, that there are no ground breaking ideas on the table at the moment. Mr Gulzar admits that he is not a millionaire and does not have that kind of money to spend on the pier. Maybe then he should not have bought the pier? We must admit to being stymied on this one.


Then there have been complaints about the rates and electricity bill. Surely, any businessman looking to take on such a project would have known well in advance what the outgoings are, as part of putting together a business plan.


Of course there will be rates on a building like this and a fairly hefty electricity bill with all those lights. Again, why mention this in the media apart from seeking to justify Eastbourne pier joining the ranks of charge for entry curiosities. On it's own, and in our opinion, that is an admission that the project was not that well thought through. Come on Lions Group, get it together. You need an attraction that EBC can approve and that will pull in the punters, not because they are forced pay to walk above the waves, but because they want to see what you have to offer. It costs nothing to walk along the promenade - and you can still breath in the sea air. Next thing is we'll be charged for walking along the beachfront, or swimming in the sea.




POT WARMING - One way to put your case across in a less formal atmosphere is to invite influential citizens to discuss potential solutions, in this case at a hotel in Eastbourne. By accepting this hospitality those in attendance are likely to be more receptive to softer options, rather than looking at how to achieve the main objective.  The Mayor of Eastbourne, Janet Coles is seated on the right.





Being at risk may not necessarily be a reflection of the current physical state of a building. The description might also apply when an owner refuses point blank to reinstate the listed building. In such cases a local authority has difficult decisions to make.


Nobody wants to see any owner become the subject of enforcement proceedings and goodness knows the present owner is no stranger to the law courts, having been to Brighton Magistrates Court several times in connection with fines for placing and then not removing buildings, fences and flora on a site of scientific significance. In the end Natural England had no choice but to enforce against Mr Gulzar, when (according to them) he ignored repeated requests to rectify the situation on the Pevensey Levels and refused meetings, etc. Mr Gulzar denied that was the case but still agreed to pay fines of around £135,000, rather than appeal the matter to the High Court.


Clearly though, there is an obligation on the part of Eastbourne Borough Council to urge the owner to make good, but if there is an abject refusal, then a Repair Notice might be issued and if that is not complied with, a Compulsory Purchase Order may be issued.


In order to avoid that, a round table meeting may be a sensible option, where the alternatives can be spelled out for the avoidance of doubt. We are sure that everyone is waiting to hear the bottom line from the current owner, and conversely, that the flamboyant owner is waiting to hear the bottom line from the local authority. It is more than likely that Mr Gulzar has arranged for loans to cover the rebuild of the arcade. If that is the case, it is only natural that he might be looking to explore other options.


On this front, the Cleaner Oceans Club is more than willing to join in if the charity can be helpful at all. We are sure that the pier owner has good intentions and something in mind to pull the heritage rabbit out of the hat.


A last resort might be to put the pier back on the market. We doubt that this has crossed the mind of such a robust trader, and we are sure that anyone would be willing to work with a man with such drive, to make his dream of a better pier for Eastbourne, maybe even better than before the tragic fire that caused this melee.





According to the Eastbourne Independent there are over 650 postings on the Pier Memorial Facebook page. You can see these for yourself by clicking here: https://www.facebook.com/arcadememorial/


On the 30th November, Luke Gardener sent a video message to Mr Gulzar, not to charge for the pier.





THE LORD AWARD - No amount of work for charity can hide the fact that the most important work of all is not a priority. Mr Gulzar is now complaining of the high cost of running the pier, but surely he must have known about these before buying the structure. Was there ever a plan, or is the generated hype the plan? An informed entrepreneur would have developed a plan before putting in a bid. What information was passed between vendor and purchaser prior to the transfer we wonder. What other insurance claims might either party had in the past?





SEASIDE PIER. It opened on 13th June 1870 and was designed by Eugenius Birch, the contractors Messrs Head, Wrighton and Co of Stockton on Tees. It was completed in 1872 and modified at the landward end following a storm of 1877. The seaward Pavilion theatre with 'camera obscura' and two games pavilions are of 1901 designed by Noel Ridley AMICE. The central windscreens were erected between 1902-03, and a music pavilion was added in 1925 designed by P D Stoneham. Further kiosks were added in 1971, and an entrance building in 1991 in matching style.

MATERIALS: Substructure of cast iron screwpiles with some surviving combined cast iron side railings and seating. Wooden decking except for the centre which was replaced in concrete slabs after the Second World War. The pier buildings are constructed of wood with some structural cast iron and zinc roofs.

PLAN: As originally built in 1872 it was 1000ft long by 22ft wide, with two projecting bays on each side increasing the width to 68ft at the shore end and 52ft halfway along. The pier head had a diamond-shaped end approximately 115ft wide. After the storm of 1877 the shoreward end was rebuilt 5ft higher and the width of the pier increased to 52ft. By 1901 the pier end was much enlarged to accommodate the Pavilion theatre and in 1925 a section near the shore end was widened for a new music pavilion.




SHAMPOO & SET - Not sure about that quiff Mr Gulzar! Uncharacteristically, the hotelier appears to have had a makeover. We prefer his usual style, what do you think? The blazer though is very Billy Smarts in this light. In the circumstances, we like that. Everyone needs a sense of humor and a bank manager who can laugh with you. Especially if the tourists decide to stop coming to town because there is nothing to see. Thankfully, Eastbourne has some splendid theatres and the Sovereign Harbour, and is a favourite with foreign students for learning.



HISTORY: The first pile of Eastbourne Pier was screwed into the seabed on 18th April 1866, and the pier was officially opened on 13th June 1870 by Lord Edward Cavendish. The pier was one of 14 designed by Eugenius Birch (1818-1884). By the official opening date only half the projected 1000ft length had been constructed and it was not completed until 1872. It was originally 22ft wide with two projecting wings on each side and a small diamond-shaped pier head with two kiosks and a bandstand.

On New Year's Day 1877 a violent storm washed away a large part of the shoreward end of the pier. To counteract the effect of waves surging over the shingle below the shoreward end was rebuilt 5ft higher. Also the pier was rebuilt to the width of the former projecting bays, from 22ft to 52ft. In 1888 a large building was constructed at a cost of £250 on the pier head to form a theatre, but was taken off 'in one piece' to Lewes for use as a cattle shed when it was proposed in 1899 to produce a grander building. The plans, drawn up by Noel Ridley, were for a new pavilion theatre housing a 'camera obscura' in the dome surmounting the structure. The building, completed in 1901, could accommodate 1000 people, it had no pillars to obstruct the view and the balconies were cantilevered. It contained a bar, a cafe and the pier offices. An open verandah just above ground level was later filled-in. The camera obscura was the largest in the country when constructed. Very few now remain and this is thought to be the only camera obscura on a pier in the world. Visitors could watch a moving coloured picture of the view outside on an emulsioned dish in a darkened room.

In 1901 the two games saloons were erected on either side of the central ramp. Between 1902 and 1903 the central windscreens were erected and a ten-sided bandstand which was removed in 1945.

In 1912 the original octagonal front entrance kiosks, together with the central octagonal pay kiosk, were removed. The central pay kiosk still survives in the middle of the Redoubt Pavilion Gardens.

In 1925 a section of the upper deck level was widened near the shore end and a new music pavilion with domed roof constructed which could seat 900. It was used for many years as a ballroom and later became an amusement arcade.

During World War II there was an order to blow up the pier but, luckily, it was spared; wooden decking was removed from the centre to prevent an enemy landing and gun platforms installed in the theatre to repel any attempted enemy landing. In 1945 the bandstand was removed and in 1951 the Edwardian entrance kiosks were replaced by a flat-roofed building.

In 1970 a pier employee set fire to the Pavilion Theatre and severe damage was caused to its shoreward end, including the destruction of the access staircase to the camera obscura. As a result the theatre was closed down and the remaining part of the building converted into a nightclub. In the 1970s two steel-framed glass fibre amusement arcade buildings were added between the ramp and the old theatre, followed by three kiosks between the ballroom and the ramp.

In 1991 the entrance building of 1951 was replaced by a new entrance, in a similar style to the original octagonal turrets, with shops and a weatherproof covered way. In 2003 the camera obscura was re-opened to the public.



Fishing from the dangerous landing on Eastbourne's pier



SOURCES: Supplement to "The Illustrated London News", June 25, 1870. Print of original pier. "The British Builder", July 1925, pp.281-283 for the music pavilion. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Eugenius Birch. Simon H Adamson, "Seaside Piers", 1977. "Eastbourne Argus", 14/06/1982. John D Clarke and Partners, "Eastbourne Pier Conservation Strategy". Report of December 2007. Arthur J Gill, "Camera Obscura", April 1976. James Fenton, "Journal of Photography and Motiuon Picture Photography of the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, USA". Vol 27, No 4, Dec 1984, pp.9-15 for surviving 'camera obscura' in Great Britain.




SUNSET - Will the Blue Room ever see the light of day. It does not look good.



REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: * Following the loss of a number of Eugenius Birch's 14 seaside piers and most notably the almost complete destruction of Brighton West Pier by storm damage and fire, Eastbourne is now the finest of Birch's surviving seaside piers. * Eastbourne and Brighton Palace Pier, by St John Moore, are now the best surviving Victorian seaside piers on the South Coast for the number of remaining Victorian and Edwardian structures. * Eastbourne Pier has a rare surviving example of a 'camera obscura'; it was the largest example in Great Britain when built in 1901, and seems to be the only example of a camera obscura on a seaside pier in the world. * Eastbourne Pier is a good example of a promenade pier, later adapted into a full blown pleasure pier with good quality late C19, Edwardian and 1920s structures. Later replacement buildings have imitated the style of the earlier structures, so that the pier retains a stylistic coherence.

National Grid Reference: TV6185098847.  List entry Number: 135311





BLING A RING DING - The Sheikh (okay, we know he is not an Arabian Sheikh but the name kind of suits him) is known for his glitter taste in transport. He also pimped up a Mercedes with similar gold films and is said to be very fond of lions, though tigers may also feature, as Mr Gulzar was born in India, land of the fabulous Taj mahal, and the background to Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book.



Golden lions are now on Eastbourne pier, how long before the blue is gone


LORDY, LORDY - For a moment it looked as though the pier might also be pimped up and painted gold. But for now the new owner has changed his mind, content with picking out a few lions on the pier's lampposts. He has reigned back to keep his crony faithful, faithful. How long though before that all changes?


What is coming through loud and clear is that there never was a plan as we were lead to believe in the early newspaper articles about the purchase, but rather Mr Gulzar is sounding out ideas in public to test the water, presumably hoping for his prayers to be answered.


The £2 pound charge is the kind of corner shop thinking that will more than likely never see the Blue Room reinstated. Has anyone done the sums? We'd be waiting for the next ten years before anything happens - and what if the public decide to boycott the pier in protest at the lack of progress. Then we'd be waiting ten years on top of that - in other words: forever. Piffle!


There are a few other piers who charge visitors to cross the threshold. Both Clevedon and the Grand Pier at Weston super-Mare charge for entry.





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Eastbourne Pier

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