Hope has been expressed that ­fire-hit Eastbourne Pier could be reopened by next year as two-thirds of it was untouched by flames.

Up to 80 firefighters ­tackled the blaze at the 144-year-old, Grade-II listed structure, which left the dome-shaped arcade section a charred shell.

But as investigations continued into what caused the fire, Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd sounded a note of optimism about the privately owned pier's revival.

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After talks with East Sussex's chief fire officer, Mr Lloyd said two-thirds of it remained untouched by fire and the structure appeared "pretty sound".

The Liberal Democrat MP has now called on the community to rally round the pier's stricken traders, amid fears that some had no insurance. Mr Lloyd said: "It's still very much still standing, and I'm very hopeful and confident that it will be reopening next year and be back in business."

The pier was evacuated quickly at around 3pm yesterday, and Sussex Police said the fire was not believed to be suspicious.