The seaward end of Hastings Pier will remain closed for at least six weeks despite pleas from tearful traders.

But the horseshoe section by the promenade will remain open 'for now'.

Emotions were running high yesterday as traders wearing 'Save our Pier' T-shirts begged pier owners Ravenclaw Investments Inc to keep the pier open.

About 20 traders had marched to Hastings Magistrates Court where Hastings Borough Council was asking for an order to be imposed to close the pier until repairs are carried out.

But the case was adjourned until August 9 to allow both sides to present evidence, meaning the pier will stay closed under the council's emergency powers until then at least.

Before the court case, Ravenclaw's representative Harmesh Pooni had said the whole pier would have to close as only having half of it open was not commercially viable.

But at the eleventh hour and faced with devastated tenants, he said he would keep the horseshoe section open for now. Traders are now divided between those who have already lost their businesses and those fighting to keep them.

Michelle Saunders, who owns The Glass Sculptress shop in the now closed section, said: "We have just gone through the hardest winter and we only have three months to make money. I had five minutes notice on Friday my business was being closed down. This is an 18-year career I am losing."

Jenny Watson owns BJ's on the Beach cafe with her husband, which is in the horseshoe section, and had just won the food contract for the bingo club.

Also fighting back tears she begged Mr Pooni to keep the horseshoe section open.

She said: "Please. It will ruin it if people like us lose our jobs. We have a small business and we don't have the kind of insurance other people like you have. You could do something about it. Look around you, what you are doing to people. We are real people with families."

Tim Crammer owns Vidojo, a unique videogaming centre on the pier which was closed on Friday.

He is resigned to the fact the damage has been done and said: "I tried to push the pier owner to find out if they have adequate insurance in place for what is clearly a breach of contract but he wouldn't answer."

Others were angry with the council for taking the emergency action.

Peter Hargreaves, owner of Deluxe Bingo Club on the pier, said: "The legal arguments will continue long after today. I think the council was negligent in leaving it so long. They knew for some time about the work that needed to be done and could have enforced it in the winter."

Brian Welsh from Pier Pressure, the nightclub on the pier, suggested a structural scaffold under the pier which could be set up in weeks.

Speaking after the court case was adjourned Mr Pooni said: "The council needs to talk to us.

"I need the support of the council. That's the whole season gone. We have half a pier. If there is a solution I will look at it. I don't want these people to lose their jobs."

A spokesman for Hastings Borough Council said: "Our emergency powers remain in place and part of the pier, from the main building back out to sea, remains closed.

"We did this in the public interest. As far as the council is concerned, providing no vehicles come on to the pier, the front of the pier will remain open."

But Coun Jeremy Birch warned the council it cannot just let the pier close and potentially decay and decline.

He said: "If the council believed the structure was unsafe it had no alternative but to step in and to temporarily bar access to the pier. But the council also has a responsibility for the economic future of the town and it has to get involved in the long-term future of the pier. It cannot just sit on the sidelines and watch and wait.

"The example of Brighton's West Pier should be a real warning to us. If Hastings pier was just left to shut up shop with no maintenance or investment we could end up with a rusting hulk."

He added: "The council should right now be discussing with the current owners and with any other interested parties uses for the pier that could make its future financially viable."

Thursday, June 22, 2006