Expansion plans for Bognor campus go on show

Felpham parish councillors Mary and Michael Harvey look at the University of Chichester's tech park plans for Bognor Regis

Felpham parish councillors Mary and Michael Harvey look at the University of Chichester's tech park plans for Bognor Regis

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ENGINEERING and digital creative technology facilities planned for Bognor Regis have gone on show for the first time.

The major £22.8m initiative is intended to place the town’s campus of the University of Chichester at the heart of two of the nation’s most crucial industries.

An aerial view from the south east of the University of Chichester's proposed tech park in Bognor Regis

An aerial view from the south east of the University of Chichester's proposed tech park in Bognor Regis

The latest proposal for the site will include a 301sq m TV production studio, a 78sq m green room in which special effects can be created and a 385sq m create, design, implement and operate centre.

Also included have been a machine shop, welding area, fabricating laboratory with a 3D printer and engineering workshops.

The intention is to attract another 1,200 to 1,500 students to Bognor by 2018 to almost double the size of the campus to 2,500.

It will also play a big part in enhancing the area’s economy.

Prof Seamus Higson, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor for sustainability and enterprise, said: “This centre is hugely important to the university. It represents a major shift for us.

“It is our entry into the science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

“The digital economy is recognised as the largest growing sector of the UK and world economies.

“There is also a widely recognised shortage of engineering skills in a wide range of industries in the area.

“We’ve had a lot of support from companies such as Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Sony in Horsham and a whole range of small and medium sized enterprises. All of them have skill shortages.”

The planned centre will enable 33 new degree courses to be offered by the university. They include maths, electronic engineering, digital design and computer animation.

“The other key thing about the centre is that we are trying to help the regeneration through the Enterprise Bognor Regis initiative,” he said.

“This can play a major part in that. Bognor, and the Arun district generally, is recognised as being a low wage, low skill economy.”

The proposals for the 3.3 hectare Donkey Field site on the university’s eastern boundary along the A259 Felpham Way boundary opposite Butlin’s were on display on the campus last Thursday afternoon and evening.

About 100 visitors attended the first session.

They included Glenway neighbours Maura Bennett and Chris Cozens. Mrs Bennett, a grandmother of eight, has lived in the road next to the campus for 35 years.

She said: “This scheme is very good for the future of Bognor. All my grandchildren live locally and this means there will be other opportunities for them. Before, all they had was the holiday trade. It now means they have not got to leave home to work.”

Mrs Cozens, a resident for 25 years, said: “Anything that brings students and employment to Bognor is a good thing. It’s nice to have something positive for Bognor.”

The university intends to submit plans to Arun District Council late next month. It hopes to start work on site in mid-summer ready for the engineering and digital technology park to be finished at the end of 2017 for a hand-over in March 2018.

If it goes ahead, the extra students will be estimated to directly spend £3-4m in Bognor in addition to the existing students.

The plan also includes a halls of residence with 320 bedrooms to help to accommodate them.

Prof Higson said traffic flow around the campus would also be changed to lessen the expansion’s impact. “We will be creating a new entrance off Felpham Way and closing the Mead Lane entrance.

“For the first time, our university bus will be coming on to the campus, rather than stopping outside, and we are inviting other bus companies to visit the campus as well,” he said.

Architect Matt Tarling, of Stride Treglown, said the centre would reach up to five storeys at the A259 boundary with a stepped decline towards the campus.

It would be faced in flint to reflect the campus’ historic walls.

“It’s all about students learning more pragmatic skills in the way in which businesses want,” he said.

Concerns about the extra traffic generated by the centre have been raised at Felpham Parish Council meetings.0