A councillor warned regeneration has become ‘a bit of a standing joke’ for residents as he led calls for the project’s timeframe to be given.
Paul Wells, speaking at the regeneration subcommittee meeting last night, said: “We seem to know where we want to be but the residents and the taxpayers will want to know if it will be five years, ten years or another 25.”
Denise Vine, head of economy group at Arun District Council, said: “In my mind it will be five years, that is what we are working towards.”
However she refused to be drawn on exact dates, stating that to do so would be ‘misleading’.
She said: “We are working as quickly as we can but large schemes like this will take time.
“This is all about negotiations and the process depends on commercial conversations.
“What you want to do with the town hall is not within my power, there are so many things that are influencing it.
“We have submitted a proposal about the value of the building and we are waiting on them to see what they would like to do with it.
“I can give honest updates on key milestones and there are a few things I could say over this next year these things will happen but to say we will be delivering it on this date – we can’t do that. At this point we don’t know what routes we are going to take.”
The subcommittee’s chairman Phil Hitchens supported this decision.
He said: “If we start giving dates people will, rightly so, say you said this date and you haven’t delivered it.
“It is still very early on.”
However he offered reassurance of progress, stating that he’s heard ‘from other sources’ that ‘builders are queuing up’ to take the project on once that stage is reached.
Questions still stand over what role Arun District Council will play in the development, on the scale from landowner to contractor – an area not covered in the ‘masterplans report’ published in February.
However the council has confirmed the Winter Gardens (for the Regis Centre site) and linear park (for Hothamton) are the plans it looks to proceed with.
Plans Ms Vine said ‘reflect the main elements that came out of the public consultation’ including an all year round offering, the car parking and the restaurants.
Further information was promised for the next meeting in October.
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