Plans for 240 Bognor flats revealed in report

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A secret report which details a plan for a tower block of student flats in Bognor Regis has been revealed.

The confidential document about the possible future of the Hothamton car park was obtained by the town’s civic society and publicised by its deputy chairman, Hugh Coster.

The Arun District Council publication also gives details about talks with Tesco about a 50,000sq ft store on the site.

Mr Coster said the facts showed Arun District Council was wrong to frequently state no written details about Bognor’s regeneration scheme by developer St Modwen existed.

He has written to the council to demand an explanation. “Nobody thought to tell us about this. Yet it’s in black and white.

“This gives a lot of detail about St Modwen’s proposals, about what was planned and various initiatives that could be done by St Modwen.

“Having been told there was nothing on paper, and then discovering there was something on paper, we wanted to bring it to your attention,” he told the civic society’s June meeting.

The report – circulated just to Arun’s officers and members – came from the council’s regeneration sub-committee meeting last December 13.

Its restricted nature meant the Bognor Regis Observer and the public would have been excluded from the discussion about it.

Mr Coster would only say the information had been given anonymously to the civic society.

One of the report’s paragraphs states 240 student flats were wanted by St Modwen in a tower block which was over 15 storeys high to match the neighbouring 16 storey high Fitzleet House in the Queensway.

Another paragraph details how students would pay £90 a week for 37 weeks a year to live in the flats.

Holiday times could see the accommodation used by Butlin’s for its seasonal staff to ensure a year-round income for the tower block’s owner.

Mr Coster said both the organisations which could benefit from the tower block’s construction, the University of Chichester and Butlin’s, were members of the Bognor Regis Regeneration Board. This unelected body would play a large role in deciding the future of the Hothamton site.

As for the information about the intended supermarket, he said: “It would appear a lot of these things are more definite about Tesco than we thought.”

Mr Coster said the information contradicted Arun chief executive Nigel Lynn when he appeared at the civic society’s February meeting.

“Mr Lynn came here and told us there was nothing on paper when there is a ton of stuff on paper,” he said.

“It’s quite right the district council seeks to protect sensitive commercial information but this is not that. This is just secrecy, which is totally and utterly wrong.”

Nigel Lynn, Arun District Council’s chief executive, said: “Private negotiations have been ongoing with St Modwen for a number of months to secure the best deal for Bognor Regis but there are no plans on paper that have been submitted to the council for these sites, nor were there when I attended the Civic Society meeting earlier this year.

“The ‘plans’ that we have are simply to get the best deal that we can for the people of Bognor Regis.

“We have encouraged St Modwen to be as open as possible and that’s why I was pleased they were able to name companies interested in coming to Bognor Regis when they attended Arun’s full council meeting back in February.

“What I do want to assure people is that nothing has been decided. There’s nothing going on behind closed doors and any suggestions of such is wholly wrong. St Modwen remain committed to full and open public consultation later this year where we will all see the full proposals and be given the chance to air our views.

“In the meantime I am encouraged by the recent news from St Modwen that so many companies remain very interested in coming to the town and being a part of these regeneration proposals.”