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Council Must Pay Following ‘Unsafe’ Pier Closure

The assignee of the former tenant and operator of a bingo hall and amusement arcade on Hastings Pier is entitled to compensation after the pier was closed to the public amidst concerns in respect of its structural integrity. The High Court ruled that damages were payable after Hastings Borough Council exercised its closure powers under section 78 of the Building Act 1984 ..

Seafront with pierThe tenant was in liquidation and had assigned to the claimant its right to bring proceedings under section 106 of the Act. The tenant had occupied two units on the pier for several years before the council closed the pier on the basis of advice that five of its trusses had failed and that it would be unsafe to allow large numbers of people onto the structure. There were at the time three major events booked to take place in the pier’s ballroom and the council argued that it had no option but to make the closure order which was later confirmed by magistrates.

However, in upholding the claimant’s case, the High Court ruled that the power under section 78 was only exercisable ‘where emergency measures are necessary’ and it was not enough for the council to argue that it ‘might reasonably have proceeded’ as it did.

The court also noted that, had a private individual closed the pier, the tenant would have had a good cause of action in tort to recover business interruption and other losses resulting from the closure. The council also failed to convince the court that it could not be held liable on the basis that the tenant knew or should have known of the pier’s condition and was in default of its obligations under the Occupiers Liability Act to ensure that the pier was closed to the public until repairs were affected.

The court’s decision means that the claimant is entitled to compensation in respect of the period of approximately three months between the date when the council exercised its power to close the pier and the confirmation of the order by magistrates under section 77 of the Act