Hurrah! Hastings Pier reopens ahead of schedule in time for the summer months

Hastings Pier opened its gates to the public for the first time this year, after a long stand off between the council and the pier owner.

That owner - the flamboyant Sheikh Abid Gulzar, said despite the date - April 1st - his plans for the pier were 'no joke' and he would do his best to pull in the crowds.

But he warned the council that he expected them to support him if the place was to become a commercial success, and he said long delays in planning applications weren't helping him, the town, or the tourist economy in East Sussex.

  • Watch this report by Malcolm Shaw:

It's over three months since Hastings Pier was last open to the public. This morning (01/04) new owner, Sheikh Abid Gulzar was unhand to unlock the gates and welcome the first visitors back on.

Mr Gulzar says he was forced to close the pier for repairs following an electrical fire and storm damage. Now he's urging the community to back him in making it a go-to destination for the town.

  • Sheikh Abid Gulzar, Pier owner

Abid Gulzar already owns the neighbouring pier in Eastbourne. His trademark touches of gold have raised a few eyebrows there and seem to be creeping in Hastings too.

There are mixed views about the changes.

There are mixed views about the changes. Credit: ITV Meridian

Hastings Borough Council has given the go-ahead for five new kiosks on the pier, including retrospective approval for this ice-cream parlour which had already been put up.

But plans for an amusement arcade won't be debated until May.

  • Councillor Peter Chowney, Leader Hastings Council

It's nine years since the pier was all but destroyed by fire. It took a huge community effort and millions of pounds of public money to restore it.

It's nine years since the pier was all but destroyed by fire Credit: ITV Meridian

Not everyone is happy the pier is now in private hand, but Abid Gulzar says if people back him, he will make it a success.