Mercedes-driving tycoon dubbed ‘Goldfinger’ is set to buy award-winning British pier saved with £12m of public money for just £100,000
- Hastings Pier was saved from demolition with a £12.4million grant six years ago
- Now expected to be sold to a tycoon known as ‘Goldfinger’ for a mere £100,000
- Sheikh Abid Gulzar already owns Eastbourne Pier which he bought back in 2015
- Campaigners said deal is a ‘travesty’ and ‘national disgrace’ and want the pier to belong to the public – adding it should not be sold off to the highest bidder
One of Britain’s most iconic seaside piers which was saved for the nation with a £12million lottery grant is to be sold to a millionaire for just £100,000.
Hastings Pier is expected to be sold for a fraction of that cost to tycoon and local businessman Sheikh Abid Gulzar, who is dubbed ‘Goldfinger’ for his love of gold.
It was badly damaged by fire in 2010 but a huge campaign led to a £12.4million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and reconstruction started in 2012.
Hastings Pier is expected to be sold for a fraction of that cost to tycoon Sheikh Abid Gulzar, dubbed ‘Goldfinger’ for his love of gold. (He is pictured on Eastbourne Pier, which he owns)
Last year it won the coveted Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Stirling Prize for the best new building in the UK.
But now the seaside attraction is to be sold at a knockdown price – believed to be less than £100,000 – to a private developer after running into financial difficulties.
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Sheikh Gulzar, 72, has refused to comment, but just a week ago registered a new company under his name called Hastings Pier Limited.
Indian-born Mr Gulzar, who drives a distinctive gold Mercedes, already owns Eastbourne Pier which he bought in 2015.
Last year the pier (pictured) won the coveted Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Stirling Prize for the best new building in the UK
But he has caused anger among residents, conservationists and historians by painting the pier’s traditional domes and pinnacles in his trademark gold along with lion motifs on nearly 50 lampposts.
He courted further controversy by banning dog walkers, cyclists, fishing and picnics and threatening to introduce a £2 entrance fee to the pier.
Hastings Pier has been a popular tourist attraction on the south coast since it first opened opened to the public in 1872.
The pier was badly damaged by fire in 2010 but a huge campaign led to a £12.4million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and reconstruction started in 2012
Campaigners said a deal to sell Hasting Pier to a private entrepreneur of was a ‘travesty’ and ‘national disgrace.’
Dan Matthews, events co-ordinator on the pier, said: ‘It is shocking that this iconic pier, which was the recipient of so much public money, is going to be flogged off on the cheap like this. It is a travesty. It’s criminal really.
‘It’s a national disgrace. There is a plan just waiting in the wings which would keep the pier in public ownership.’
Indian-born Gulzar, who drives this distinctive gold Mercedes, already owns Eastbourne Pier
In its 145-year history, the pier has burned down twice, served as a landing site for refugees during the Second World War, and hosted concerts by the Rolling Stones, the Who and Jimi Hendrix.
But the Hastings Pier Charity, which employs 44 people, went into administration last year seeking additional funding.
Administrators are looking to sell the pier as a viable business and have been holding talks with prospective buyers.
However Friends of Hastings Pier (FOHP) want to keep the pier in public ownership and have raised £434,255 of a £500,000 target to keep it running.
Friends of Hastings Pier (FOHP) want to keep the pier (pictured) in public ownership
They say the pier should belong to the public and should not be sold off to the highest bidder.
James Chang of the Friends of Hastings Pier said: ‘We can maintain the future of the pier with this so we don’t quite understand why this decision is being taken. We want a say in it’s future. It is wrong for it to be sold entrepreneur to profit from.’
Another campaigner said: ‘Hastings Pier is part of our Victorian seaside heritage and it shouldn’t be flogged off for a song.’
News of the sale led to a protest at the pier on Wednesday evening when almost 300 people turned out to voice their disapproval at the plans.
A spokesman for the campaign said: ‘The Friends of Hastings Pier are currently in conversations with world class operators, with the proposition of making a collaborative bid. We know the pier hasn’t been working.
News of the sale led to a protest at the pier on Wednesday evening when almost 300 people turned out to voice their disapproval at the plans
‘We know that things need to change and improve – we need a building, we need a budget, but we have a plan and if we’re given time and investment we believe we can turn Hastings Pier into the icon the town deserves.
‘They need somewhere between a few days and a couple of weeks – surely this is worth waiting for.’
The Heritage Lottery Fund said the decision lay with the administrators.
A spokesman said: ‘We are supporting the administrators appointed by Hastings Pier Charity in their efforts to find a new future for the pier following the sad demise of the community trust. A decision on the future of the pier will be announced by the administrators in due course.’
Administrators Smith Williamson said a decision would be made imminently but were tight-lipped about the identity of the new owner.
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