steps leading to the Victorian camera obscura’

steps leading to the Victorian camera obscura’

 

Eastbourne pier has a new owner, flamboyant Eastbourne hotelier Abid Gulzar, who is a self-appointed Indian sheikh (the title is a family name apparently).

70 year old entrepreneur hasn’t wasted any time in his publicity drive. He has gained national press recognition, with television devoting time to him as well. This is all aimed at getting public and officialdom on his side so when his plans are finally revealed they will be approved.

The new Eastbourne ’Lions’ Pier

The new Eastbourne ’Lions’ Pier

The change of ownership occurred during early November 2015, for a reputed sum less than one million pounds. Mr. Gulzar owns the Albany and Mansion hotels on Eastbourne’s flat seafront, as well as the Boship Hotel in nearby Hailsham. He also is the proprietor of a children’s nursery.

All property owned by him has the title ‘Lions’. This has never been explained, but I presume is connected to an image, like Richard Branson’s Virgin. The pier has been rebranded ‘The Lions Pier’.

this is the sign you read when you leave the pier’

this is the sign you read when you leave the pier’

Eastbourne pier suffered a major fire in July 2014, resulting in the 1925 built Blue Room ballroom being completely destroyed. Mr. Gulzar is a shrewd businessman, having already bought and sold two seafront hotels for reputed double his money profits.

Having spoken with locals, there is universal approval of his plan to charge a pier entrance fee. Common sense, really, as it requires a lot of maintenance. However, there is also misgiving as to plans and motive.

a gold embossed lion on a lamp post’

a gold embossed lion on a lamp post’

He has a poor record of compliance with Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning department. Previously, his policy has been to do it, and when told he shouldn’t have, then apply for retrospective permission, which is often granted through expediency.

Any major pier alterations have to be previously approved. At present, the pier is not subject to a mandatory maintenance order, but this can be quickly imposed if public safety is compromised. Eastbourne pier is an ongoing project, with workmen continuously employed throughout the year.

Constant salt erosion, public places wear and tear, waves crashing below, winter storms, all these have to be combated, and if not, then the council have the powers to shut the pier down if they consider public safety standards to be falling. There is a lot involved in being a pier owner.

New owner Mr. Gulzar has expressed his intention in renovating the dock at the end of the pier so pleasure boats can land, bringing in tourists from other resorts such as Brighton and possibly further afield. Until 1959 there were daily summer departures for day trips to Boulogne, before that steamers plied their trade along the coast between resorts.

However, this would prove unpopular with fishermen, as their platform would be removed. Fishing is not a particular money-spinner.

There is a tea room on the pier. At present, the standards are not particularly high, very few patrons being prepared to pay high prices for indifferent cream teas. Hopefully an injection of inspiration will prove beneficial.

expensive decking replaces the destroyed Blue Room ballroom’

expensive decking replaces the destroyed Blue Room ballroom’

There is a room above the night club accessed by wooden steps. It contains a camera obscura. Built in 1898, this is a two metre convex grey round dish with a pitted surface. The public stands looking at the image on the dish, in colour, reflected through a series of refracted glass from the tunnelled gap in the roof above. The operator turns a handle so the image rotates.

It was last used in 2004, when the fee was £2. Apparently, there is Heritage or Lottery money available to be set against the £50,000 restoration costs. That is a real jewel in the pier’s crown.

Another intention is to have a theatre above the night club.

Grand plans.

The previous owners received a £10m insurance payout for fire damage. This money is theirs, so Mr. Gulzar has to fund all improvements. He has to have public liability insurance. Would fire and storm damage insurance be prohibitively expensive. Would he find a company prepared to accept the liability. Or would he take the risk himself.

There is a lot of local public goodwill for Mr. Gulzar and his pier ownership. I hope that he uses this wisely.

 

Harry Pope is Eastbourne’s only licensed sight-seeing guide www.harrythewalker.com   He gives history talks www.harrythetalker.com and is a writer www.harrythewriter.com

 

the tea room looks very nice, but...’

the tea room looks very nice, but…’

About Harry Pope

Very few writers earn more than £10,000 annually. Harry is one of the poorer ones. He is no longer middle-aged, as he knows no-one who is getting on for 140. Literary success has come with an attempt at maturity – failed both – but marital stability with Pam has more than compensated. He is an accomplished speaker, talking on a variety of topics, including how not to run a hotel, buried secrets, and what’s it worth. See Harry The Talker. He has five published books, see Harry The Writer. He is Eastbourne’s only licensed sight-seeing guide see Harry The Walker. He has a daily blog see Harry The Blogger. The only site not purchased is www.harrytheeverything.com but that might come, who knows. He was a London funeral director for many years, then started Cheam Limousines in 1990, selling some thirteen years later. Arriving in Eastbourne in the Summer of 2003, Harry and Pam first bought a small guest house, then a large hotel, which proved to be disastrous because of their business partnership with a moron from California. He now walks, and talks, sometimes both at the same time.