Setback for job-creation plan at old Lec airfield

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HOPES of using a £6m boost to jobs in Bognor Regis have suffered a setback.

The money has been allocated to the creation of at least 800 jobs at a business park on the former Lec airfield.

But the amount of work needed to meet the conditions laid down to receive the loan from the Growing Places Fund for the original deadline for the payment has been extended.

Landowner Sime Darby London was forced to ask at a recent meeting of Coast to Capital for extra time needed to bring the Airfield Park development to fruition.

The members of the local enterprise partnership backed the request and remain supportive of the airfield proposal. They agreed to consider it when the remaining work has been finished. This is due to be next year.

Raof Daud, Sime Darby London’s managing director, said: “We need more time to refine our proposals for the Airfield Park scheme and bring the required elements together. We are continuing our work to meet the conditions set for the Growing Places Fund funding and take into account feedback received.

“We would like to thank all the stakeholders concerned for working with us in a positive manner.”

The former airfield is sited east of the railway line and north of the Arun Leisure Centre.

It was last used some 20 years ago and measures about 44 acres.

The site has been identified as having the potential to provide development within a parkland setting with the emphasis on the creation of jobs.

The £6m from the Growing Places Fund is to be used to pay for the considerable cost of building a north-south relief road to serve the intended development and the related infrastructure.

An important condition attached to the allocation – one of five made by Coast2Capital in April – was the projects needed to be delivered quickly to stimulate growth. The initial deadline was fixed for this year.

Sime Darby is believed to have made good progress on the Airfield Park proposals for some 10,000sq ft of business space.

Preliminary consultation has taken place on an outline masterplan with those who have to be consulted about a major scheme.

Others – such as Bognor, Felpham and Bersted councils and Bognor Regis Regeneration Board – have also been consulted.

The results of those sessions are being included by Sime Darby as its proposals become firmer.

But the complexity of creating a major scheme from nothing in an area without road links and close to the Aldingbourne Rife means the preparatory work has taken longer than expected.

The former airfield is among the sites earmarked in Arun District Council’s draft local plan land use blueprint as one in the area for job creation in the next 25 years.

But the proposal has been criticised by animal campaigners for its potential effect on an open space. Felpham parish councillors were also unhappy about the timing of the new road.