Lack of deckchairs causes complaint from councillor

A LACK of deckchairs along Bognor Regis this summer has harmed the town’s tourism image, a councillor claims.

Cllr Francis Oppler said he was unhappy the traditional seaside seating had been either missing from the prom or only available in limited numbers.

The first part of the summer saw an absence of deckchairs on the seafront provided by Inspire Leisure on behalf of Arun District Council.

A few of them, about six, appeared around a deck chair hut but the hut stayed closed and t no attendant could be seen.

“So, if someone who could not manage to carry a chair or there were more than six customers, they would have to leave disappointed,” said Cllr Oppler (LD, Orchard).

“This is a crazy situation for a seaside town such as Bognor.

“Sadly, this is symptomatic of Arun’s lack of commitment to tourism in the town.

“Frankly, it is just not good enough.

“Arun appear not to have imposed such strict rules on Inspire as they have with previous concessionaires.

“I can recall in years gone by deckchairs placed all the way along the seafront from the pier to the bandstand.”

Cllr Oppler said he had raised the concerns with Arun’s cabinet member for corporate governance, Cllr Dudley Wensley, earlier in the summer in a bid to get the level of service improved.

Arun’s resources director and deputy chief executive, Nigel Croad, defended the deckchair provision on Bognor seafront.

“We are very proud of the good deckchair service Inspire Leisure have provided on the Bognor beach, for residents and visitors alike, since 2013.

“The district council fully supports this traditional and important service but it must be remembered that this service is reliant on good weather.”

Inspire Leisure maintained and offered just under 100 deckchairs from 10am-4pm, if it was allowed by good weather and full staffing numbers.

The past 100 days of the service had been audited by Arun, he said. This period had seen the full service provided for 89 complete days.

Of the remaining period, six full days and four part days were lost because of bad weather. Sick leave caused the loss of three further days.

Mr Croad said: “Although not always visible, staff are always present. The day to day operation of this concession can vary. Typically, a member of staff on duty starts their day at the western hut, nearest the pier.

“They check cash floats and then put out a number of chairs, with the number varying depending on the weather.”

The employee will then go to the other kiosk and put out more chairs. They then walk or ride between the kiosks to display more chairs as necessary and collect hire payments.

Inspire was now also using a ‘back pack flag’ for greater visibility for customers on the beach, added Mr Croad.