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Council bosses are considering closing Herne Bay pier amid fears that the Pier Trust is not fit to manage it. Members of Canterbury City Council's ruling executive committee will discuss a hard-hitting report at a meeting on Thursday.

In it, the council's head of culture Dawn Hudd warns the council could close the pier and that it will only be handed to the pier trust if they can prove they have enough cash, competence and experience to run it.

Herne Bay Pier Trust must prove its competence to run the pier

Council bosses are considering closing Herne Bay pier amid fears that the Pier Trust is not fit to manage it. Members of Canterbury City Council’s ruling executive committee will discuss a hard-hitting report at a meeting on Thursday.

In it, the council’s head of culture Dawn Hudd warns the council
could close the pier and that it will only be handed to the pier trust
if they can prove they have enough cash, competence and experience to
run it. Miss Hudd said dealing with the Pier Trust had been difficult for council officials. She said:

“Communication has proved challenging and agreements
about lines of communication have not always been followed, often
causing confusion and additional or duplicated work.”

Miss Hudd also said involving the Trust caused delays in setting
up concessions on the pier. A catering van and roller skating hire were
approved for this year, and four other businesses expressed an interest. But Miss Hudd added:

“Again this process required an enormous
amount of officer time to deliver a small, low-key offer on the pier for
this year and confusion and disappointment was suffered by some of the
applicants. The income did little more than contribute towards the council’s costs in setting them up.”

She said the Trust was not ready to enter into a formal
relationship with the council, and warned future negotiations may take a
different tone. Miss Hudd said:

“The council will say to the Pier Trust they will
be consulted on major matters concerning the pier, and if they come to
us in the future with researched and costed plans which are not
resource-intensive for the council we will listen to them. It is to our mutual benefit to put some distance between us for the time being.”

There are four options on the table, including closing the pier.
That is expected to be rejected because of the expected public outcry. The recommended option is for the council to keep control of the
pier but not deliver any events. The Trust could continue with its plans
for a beach hut market and finalise its business plan. Trustees could
also work on their proposals for the Kent Pier Marina, around the old
pier head.

Once the Trust can “demonstrate its competence and ability to
take over”, it would be able to manage the pier, and would be granted a
short lease for the platform. But Miss Hudd warned:

“If the Pier Trust at some point did not
wish to continue with their lease or failed as an organisation, the
council would need to have considered its options for taking back
control of the pier, or accept that it may close.”

The council’s executive committee will meet at 6.30pm on Thursday
13th December at the Guildhall in Canterbury. The meeting is open to the public.

Herne Bay Times 10th Dec 2012

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