Sussex

Eastbourne Pier: Owner's plans two years after fire

Eastbourne pier on fire Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Smoke from the fire could be seen more miles along the south coast

Two years after fire ripped through Eastbourne Pier, the new owner says his top priority is to replace the badly damaged theatre.

Sheikh Abid Gulzar, who bought the pier in October, said: "The pier is coming up beautifully. I'm very happy and busy working seven days [a week]."

About one third of the 1870 Grade II listed structure was destroyed in the blaze on 30 July 2014.

Sussex Police said they had "no clear picture" of what caused the fire.

A spokesman said the blaze had "destroyed the scene and recoverable evidence" and investigation was closed in July 2015.

Help for traders

Temporary pop-up shops were opened for traders in August 2014.

Ian Donald, who runs Gifts at the Pier said: "If it hadn't been for the council putting up a little pop-up shop near the end of the pier I don't know how we would have survived."

He said the return of the amusements to the pier had proved to be successful in attracting families and children on to the pier.

In August 2014, Stephen Penrice, from Cumbria died while working on the fire-damaged pier after falling on to the beach.

Image caption Sheikh Abid Gulzar owns two seafront hotels in Eastbourne and another in nearby Hailsham

Sheikh Gulzar, said he had initially intended to turn the original theatre into a casino.

"I think the church is objecting to a casino so I may try and make it into a dance hall. It's massive.

"I want to go ahead where the general public is supportive and everyone is happy."

In May he told the Eastbourne Herald the theatre was in a "shocking state of disrepair" and had been left untouched since being badly damaged by fire in 1970.

"I think people used to ask my why I took on such a tremendous task. I'm very happy and busy working seven days [a week]," Sheikh Gulzar told BBC Sussex.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The fire, which started at the promenade end of the 146-year-old pier, did not to have affected the sea end of the Grade II listed structure
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Sussex Police launched an arson investigation after the blaze
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption At its height, up to 80 firefighters, together with RNLI crews, tackled the fire on the pier
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The scene was described by one onlooker as an "absolute red, molten mess of flame and smoke"
Image copyright Huw Evans picture agency
Image caption The burnt-out buildings on the pier were later destroyed and replaced by open deck areas

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