At long last Canterbury City Council has described its vision for the future of our Pier. In a word: short.
Some of the trustees of the Pier Trust have been angling for a new Pier for years, if not decades. All of the trustees have given generously of their time and expertise. They have drawn together a wealth of national and international experts to produce first rate proposals and business plans which they presented to our Council.
CCC dismissed them, and now we know why.
The Council was instrumental in setting up the Pier Trust, providing £5,000 of funding in the first year. This £5,000 was important, as it allowed the Pier Trust to register for charitable status. In exchange for the start-up funding, CCC insisted on having two councillors on the board of trustees.
In an ideal world, these two councillors would have provided a direct line of communication with the Council, thus speeding up the decision-making and smoothing progress. More recently, however, they seem to have been used as a way of keeping an wary eye on the Trust, dampening expectations, and limiting options.
The inevitable frustration with lack of progress led to some of the dedicated and hard-working volunteers resigning from the Trust. Unsurprising - there's a limit to how long anyone will bang their head against a wall. And the Council had the nerve to publicly badmouth the Trust and the trustees.
And now we know why. The Council, our Council, never intended to rebuild the Pier.
The Pier Trust's clearly stated objective has always been to rebuild the Pier. The Council's representatives on the board of trustees didn't support the Trust's goal, but undermined and stifled it. We've seen how effectively Canterbury City Council has been when raising money for projects in Canterbury (Beaney, Marlowe). No such efforts were made for this project in Herne Bay.
Click HERE to read an excellent response to the Council's criticisms of the Trust, and a few well-placed criticisms of the Council. The splendid Kim Hennelly cut to the chase with her characteristic directness, and asked Cllr Gilbey (Leader of the Council) whether CCC ever intended to rebuild the Pier. Here's the reply:
I am writing in response to your email of 7 March 2012 regarding the future of Herne Bay Pier and the council’s intentions in this regard.
The council does not have any current intention of rebuilding the pier itself, our Corporate Plan pledges to improve the sea front and the current pier platform.
The Herne Bay Pier Trust was set up so that a business plan could be developed by the Trust working with the people of Herne Bay. The council is supporting this process by helping the Trust to develop its business plan during this year and to deliver events and activities on the pier platform for the 2012 season. We expect the Trust to pursue rebuilding or extending the Pier if they consider that to be right.
Dawn Hudd CMgr, MIED
Deputy Head of Culture & Enterprise
Canterbury City Council
So there you have it.
The Council is happy to knock down the Pier - which needed to be knocked down because it had been so cheaply maintained over the years that demolition became cheaper than continued patching. The Council is happy to splash down some tarmac and let us have "events and activities" on it.
But if the Trust wants to rebuild the Pier, they're on their own. I think the Council, our Council, should have made that clear from the very beginning.
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