£80m Bognor regeneration plan ‘not supported’ by council

An artist's impression of the Sir Richard Hotham Project scheme
An artist's impression of the Sir Richard Hotham Project scheme
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A DEVELOPER’S £80 million proposals to regenerate Bognor Regis have been plunged into doubt after councillors decided ‘not to support’ the proposals.

A private discussion at a meeting of Arun District Council on Wednesday (November 11), saw councillors resolve that the Sir Richard Hotham Project plans did not meet their vision for the site.

Instead, the council’s own proposals for the Regis Centre and Hothamton car park were agreed – a debate held in the public part of the meeting.

Leader Gill Brown said: “Arun District Council, as landowner, has arrived at a decision that has been informed by both the public consultation responses and the various submissions received in response to its invitation for ideas for the redevelopment of the two council-owned town centre sites.

“As landowner, Arun was delighted that so many ideas were submitted by such a wide range of individuals and groups.

“This council meeting had always been identified as being the meeting when democratically elected-councillors would determine what, if any, of the principle elements should be agreed for the potential future redevelopment of its land in order to deliver the important regeneration of these two town centre sites.”

A council spokesman said it remained open to the council, as the planning authority, to ‘arrive at a decision it deems reasonable based on an assessment of the relevant planning considerations’.

But developer Thomas Elliott told the Observer earlier this month he feared his plans would be buried.

The Sir Richard Hotham project puts forward plans for branded shops, bars and restaurants and health and fitness spas at the Regis Centre site, plus a theatre at Hothamton capable of hosting West End shows, headline bands and singers and conferences.

The council’s vision, however, sets out proposals to include a mix of uses for Hothamton, including accommodation for university students or housing for staff working at firms like Butlin’s.

A further report will be considered by Arun next year to determine what and how it could deliver the proposals.

The council could deliver parts of the regeneration itself to maximise revenue.

It is seeking consultancy support to work on a business case to assess the viability of the council undertaking none, part, or all of the Hothamton work.

The full council meeting on Wednesday heard how members had been accused of bias in decision-making relating to the issue in an email to the council.

The solicitor asked all members to agree a declaration that they would approach the issue with an open mind.

Lib Dem leader Francis Oppler broadly welcomed the proposals, put forward by council officers.

But he expressed concern over the possibility of providing accommodation for business employees.

He said: “Whatever we do we must have wide family appeal. The ever-present elephant in the room is flats and how many. This needs to be looked at very carefully as the project proceeds.

“More than anything else, I hope that Arun will listen sensitively to the views of local people and not get locked into a battle with the community as it did with the multiplex.”

Aldwick West councillor Jacqui Maconachie said she was glad to see retail was a key feature of the council’s proposals, stating it was an important consideration for both residents and visitors.

Lib Dem councillor for Hotham ward Paul Wells added: “As a community and council now we have got to move forward with some form of regeneration for Bognor Regis.

“It is 25 years since I first attended a BR regeneration meeting.”