DUNCAN BARKES Some creative thinking could make Bognor a real jewel

Last week’s Observer featured some cracking ideas for regenerating Bognor Regis. I have always believed the town has the potential to be a jewel in the south coast’s crown, despite it being the butt of some people’s feeble attempts at humour.

The ideas for regeneration came from a Felpham couple, Will Harvey and Abby Wilkinson. Some might think their proposals radical, but I reckon it is exactly their kind of thinking that is needed if the town is to flourish.

Painting the buildings in Little High Street different vibrant shades and adding swathes of colour to Fitzleet House would not only make the town a talking point, but would dovetail perfectly with the town’s existing creative vibe.

Many forget that the team behind the excellent ROX Music and Arts organisation have spent more than two decades putting on an annual festival which not only showcases local music, but offers an outlet for art, drama and poetry.

There is room here to complement Chichester in artistic terms. Bognor could really come into its own as the town that looks after things at a more experimental, grassroots level, focusing more on Punk then Pinter.

Developing Bognor as a creative place to live and work could be a stroke of genius, but if needs the full backing and support of local people and the relevant councils and committees.

Other ideas from Will and Abby include a distinctive hat-styled bench to honour Sir Richard Hotham, as well as blue plaques around the town featuring quotes from writers, artistes and performers who are linked with Bognor.

I find all these suggestions exciting and I hope local residents and all those on the Bognor Regis Regeneration Board embrace them.

But as a local radio presenter and newspaper columnist I am aware some Bognorians can be their own worst enemies.

Once, during a break from a live radio broadcast from Bognor Birdman, I had a fascinating conversation with a grumbling local resident. She explained how she loved the town and had chosen to retire there, but was now unhappy. She did not like events such as ‘Birdman’ any more because ‘it has got too big’ and ‘there are too many people here’.

Such attitudes do the town no favours. For Bognor Regis to boom once again there needs to be tolerance and a positive attitude to change.

Some of the ideas pitched by Will and Abby in last week’s paper were innovative and exciting and I wish them all the very best of luck in realising them.

Bognor deserves to be regenerated. The ideas are bubbling and there’s no shortage of talent in the town. I just hope people don’t let their fear of something different become a barrier to progress.