After a £14.3M renovation, we’ve just turned one of the world’s oldest piers into one of the newest, thanks to community support and lottery funding which made it the People’s Pier, owned by over 3,000 people from Hastings and far beyond.
Now the Pier is opening, and we need to boost our reserves to help tide us over for the first few years as the Pier builds its business.
We’re looking to raise a minimum of £50,000, and if we’re successful, we’ll keep on going until the offer closes, or we hit £300,000, whichever comes first. If we don’t hit £50,000, the offer will not be successful, and no money will change hands.
You’ll get to be an owner of a Pier which will set the standard for what a Victorian invention can be in the 21st Century.
What do we want the money for?
As a newly renovated structure, we’ve been surprised to discover that our insurers insist we have a £100,000 excess to cover any structural damage from the weather, in addition to a much higher premium than we were expecting. We’ve shopped around for a better deal, but there’s not a very big market for insuring century-old Piers.
We’ve got this money in our reserves, but that creates a new problem, as we’d earmarked that money to help us even out the ups and downs that new businesses go through, and give us the ability to add new facilities to the Pier itself.
It’s not all about the money though. We were blown away when over 3,000 people invested to support the Pier and become its owners, but since then lots of people have contacted us wanting to become owners too, or to increase their investment. We want to give them the opportunity to become members and to show their support for the People’s Pier
What happens if we’re not successful?
If we’re not successful with this share offer, the Board will not have enough to cover both the insurance excess, and cash flow support for the Pier’s operation. The Charity that runs the Pier will not rely on wishful thinking about the projected visitor numbers or the severity of the weather and so they’ll always choose the safer option that protects the Pier’s structure.
That will mean that the first few years of the Pier’s operations will be very nerve-wracking, and the Pier will have much less resilience. There will be less cash to tide it over if things like bad summers lead to much-reduced visitor numbers, or to take advantage of opportunities to add new facilities that will draw more people to the Pier and give more income to the Charity.
Of course, the Board will continue to explore other ways to raise funds, but there’s no guarantee we’d be successful, and time spent organising fundraising is less time spent making the Pier work brilliantly for its visitors and for the community at large.
The People’s Pier
The Pier was opened in 1872 as one of the finest examples of the work of Eugenius Birch, the Victorian era’s master Pier builder. After a post-war heyday that saw the Rolling Stones play on the Pier, the Pier declined under increasingly poor ownership, culminating in closure in 2006 followed by a catastrophic fire in 2010.
We secured £12M from the Lottery to help renovate the Pier, but we needed more money to finish the job, and so undertake the first ever share issue in a charity in 2014, which saw over £590,000 raised by over 3,000 people who are now the Pier’s owners.
We’ve just re-opened to the public and now open the Pier will host a wide range of events – from Summer Circus and open-air cinema screenings, to a funfair and live music events.
(See BBC article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-36141408 and from the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/apr/27/hastings-pier-reopens-after-restoration-project-heritage-lottery-fund-east-sussex)
Why are you selling shares?
If the Pier is to survive and thrive, it will be because it gets used and that’s where community ownership helps. We’ve seen across the UK that if the community genuinely own something, they’re more likely to use it, and because their money is at stake, they will want to make it as successful as possible.
We want to ensure it stays in the control of the people who have the Pier’s best interests at heart and this is another reason we want to extend the number of members through community shares, as we know people who missed the first share offer want to become owners too.
What do I get for becoming a shareholder?
You get to be a part-owner of a Pier which will set the standard for what these Victorian icons can be in the 21st Century – we know that people get an enormous sense of pride from being able to look at the Pier and know that they own it. This gives you the right to elect the Board of Directors for the Charity and attend and vote at general meetings where all members have one vote, regardless of their shareholding. Members also get regular members Communications so you’ll be the first to know what’s happening and also get priority booking period for all ticketed events
The Board also hopes to pay interest on shares after the third year of trading, always provided that the primary obligation of community benefit has been met. The precise figure will be determined in any event by trading circumstances, but the business plan envisages a rate of 3% per year.
But the real payback to everyone who invests is that with your capital, we’ll guarantee a social return – a thriving, vibrant pier that puts Hastings back on the map in all the right ways. And as we succeed at that aim, we guarantee to share that with you, the people who showed faith in our community and in our Pier.
Can I get my money back?
Community Shares can be withdrawn and the money you invested returned to you along with any interest your investment has earned.
However, as a charity, we’re ‘asset-locked’, which means all our cash and assets like the Pier must be put to use in fulfilling our charitable objects of keeping the Pier open and functioning. We won’t be able to sell the Pier or our spare cash to satisfy our shareholders, and our only ability to support withdrawals comes from having enough revenue to fulfil those objects and leave some left over.
So, the single biggest factor in whether you can withdraw your money is how much money the Pier has. The more people use the Pier, the more people join the Charity, the more successful the Pier becomes, the more money we will have, which can enable the Board to decide to allow members to withdraw or not.
If they do, the specific amount they allow will be governed by the overall financial position, and in any case will never be more than 10% of the total issued share capital at any given time.
If the Board are allowing withdrawals, they’ll let everyone know, and withdrawals will be on a first-come first served basis. In order to give the Pier time to get on its feet, no withdrawals will be allowed until April 2017 at the earliest.
What’s the worst that can happen? – There are no guarantees in any line of business and the worst that can happen is that you lose the money you have invested in the event of the Pier failing. Under those circumstances, the value of shares can fall, and can be lost in the event of the business needing to be wound up.
If we’re not successful and become insolvent, our assets – the Pier itself and any cash reserves - will be used to pay off creditors first. If there’s any funds left over, we might be able to return people’s investment to them.
The Board don’t consider it likely that in the event of becoming insolvent, there would be sufficient funds to enable this because the Pier is a very difficult asset to sell to anyone.
You won’t be liable for any more money in any event, but the money you have invested could be lost. You have no right to compensation from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, or recourse to an ombudsman.
Who will run the Pier?
The Pier is run by professional managers with experience in working in leisure facilities, who all work under a Chief Executive who reports to a Board, elected by our 3,000 member owners. This means we get the right balance between having the right people free to get on with making the Pier as good as it can be, with the wider strategy overseen by people elected by the members of the charity, responsive and accountable to them.
You can find biographies of all the Directors on the main Hastings Pier Charity web site via the link at the bottom of this page. The Business Plan has lots more detail on the Pier and our plans (including financial projections) and can be downloaded from the link at the bottom of this page along with the Charity's published accounts and the rules of the Charity.
Can anyone buy shares?
Yes! This offer is for everyone! You can buy shares from anywhere in the world, as long as you're over 16. Companies and organisations can also take part.
For every £1 you invest, you get 1 share, with a minimum investment of just £100.
The maximum anyone can invest is 10% of the total share capital of the charity (around £70,000-£100,000). In the event of a member subscribing for an amount that would take them over this limit, we will contact them before taking their investment to advise them of the maximum they can invest in this offer.
The Community Shares Standard Mark is awarded by the Community Shares Unit to offers that meet national standards of good practice.
For more information about community shares, the Community Shares Standard Mark and the Community Shares Unit go to: communityshares.org.uk