A potential £7m boost for economic growth in Bognor Regis could be on its way.
A bid for the funding has been submitted to the Growing Places scheme to kickstart development.
Anthony Everitt, Arun District Council’s senior economic development officer, said the money would unlock one of the town’s sites identified for commercial use if it was awarded by the Coast to Capital local enterprise partnership.
He declined to give details of the area concerned, because of commercial confidentiality, but said the bid had received plenty of support from other agencies.
He told the council’s regeneration sub-committee: “We submitted the bid by the January 31 deadline. The process has been described as a call for arms, or it could be seen as inviting expressions of interest.
“I would expect Coast to Capital to come back to us reasonably quickly in the next couple of months to discuss the process and pick our brains to explore our bid in detail.”
The submission was made by the enterprise@Bognor Regis initiative’s six-strong officer working group of two members from Arun and one each from Coastal West Sussex, West Sussex County Council, Bognor Regis Regeneration Board and the University of Chichester.
Enterprise@Bognor Regis has arisen from the failed Enterprise Zone bid from last year.
This wanted to develop Oldlands Farm for an advanced manufacturing park, the nearby Salt Box site for an office/knowledge park and small business units and the former Lec airfield for business use.
Sub-committee member Cllr Trevor Bence (Pevensey) said it was important existing firms knew the work was under way to promote economic growth in Bognor.
“We need to be shouting this from the tallest trees.
“We should be telling people running businesses – small, medium and large – we can unlock this land if we are successful with the bid.
“We need to be telling them as quickly as we can,” he said.
“These people make long-term plans and they could be looking to move out because there is currently very little opportunity for them.
“We don’t want to lose any more people and any more jobs from the town.”
Coast to Capital has been given £16,024,526 from the government for Growing Places schemes in its area stretching from Bognor up to Epsom and Ewell.
Interest in the fund has been high. A significant number of new projects has been submitted for funding.
Tim Wates, vice-chairman of Coast to Capital, said: “The Growing Places fund is an exciting initiative that will unlock stalled projects. Enabling these projects to start will boost economic growth. The fund is designed to revolve so it is expected most or all of the money will be paid back, and we are aiming for a return on our investment.”
The working group will commission a report into how key sites around north-east Bognor can be brought into use and find funding sources.
It could also consider providing start-up funding for businesses as well as premises.
Mr Everitt said: “If we can provide both of those, that is a cocktail which could be really potent and could be a lot stronger than anywhere else.”
Cllr Roger Elkins (Ferring) said: “This is fantastic news for Bognor. These proposals will deliver jobs for the town.”