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Let the Pier Trust benefit from Labour's last big spend

March 24, 2010 2:30 PM

Hastings pierMichael Foster and I don't agree about lots of things, but we do agree about the iconic nature of Hastings Pier, and the worthiness and effectiveness of the Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust.

That is why, on reflection, I do not begrudge Michael bigging up the Government in his Observer column last week, and trying to make political capital out of the fact that the Pier Trust has just won an important Government grant. The £75,000 will, I understand, fund the feasibility study that is intrinsic to the redevelopment of the Pier along social enterprise lines.

This social enterprise model is the kind that is likely to enable meaningful and effective regeneration in a place like Hastings. It is rooted in a great local love affair - with the Pier itself - the planned renovation is to be owned by the community; the renovation is likely to provide skills to young people, and jobs not only in the engineering tasks to be completed, but also in the tourism opportunities that will issue forth as the Pier is ever-so-gradually brought back into community use.

It is a different quality of regeneration than that which has seen squillions of pounds of Government money levered into Hastings, whilst the town itself has remained frustratingly low in the key deprivation league tables, and whilst far too many square feet of new office space have remained unoccupied in the centre of the town.

And Governments of any and every colour are guilty of it: taking every opportunity to spend money in marginal constituencies; trying whenever possible to help shore up the position of their man, or woman, in situ.

Michael Foster's position as the incumbent Labour MP is no different to this. And make no mistake, this is enormously good news for the Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust, whatever Alistair Darling pulls out of his red box in today's Budget.

With the suggestion from Michael Foster that the Communities Minister, John Denham MP is to be in town imminently, there must surely be more cash to extract from Labour before Gordon Brown is finally booted out of Number 10.

So, in a spirit of cross-party bonhomie, let me lend a supporting voice to the lobbying that Michael Foster could and should be doing over the next days and weeks to secure vital funds from Government that will enable the future of the Hastings Pier to become more certain.

Our Pier truly is an iconic structure.

And it will be a fitting legacy for Michael Foster to have played his part in saving it.