Hastings council today issued a Compulsory Purchase Order against the Panamanian-registered owners of the town's fire-ravaged pier.
It paves the way for ownership to be transferred to the White Rocks Trust, which is seeking more than 8 million pounds of lottery cash to restore the pier.
The CPO has to be approved by the Culture Secretary and there is an initial three-week period where objections can be lodged by any party.
Cllr Peter Chowney said today was a significant step.
But any transfer of ownership is likely to be months away.
The Trust says it hopes to secure Lottery funding by the summer and begin the three-year restoration project in 2013.
The pier was ravaged by fire in October 2010. Two teenagers were arrested on suspicion of arson but Crown prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to charge them.