RESIDENTS will get another chance to have a say on the future regeneration of Bognor Regis town centre.
Gillian Brown, leader of Arun District Council, delivered the news at its
latest full meeting last Wednesday.
Cllr Brown was expected to put forward recommendations to spend some £500,000 compiling an outline planning application for the sites – but instead proposed amendments.
She said: “Listening and responding to the public through consultation is essential for any regeneration scheme for Bognor Regis.
“There have been a lot interesting ideas being voiced at the moment and this is why I am proposing that the recommendations are changed to take account of this.
“Alongside the core elements of the schemes I want the public to come forward and suggest either complimentary and commercially viable alternatives, or additions to these, for consideration by the council
“The results of the public consultation, which could start early next year will be reported back to the council.”
Cllr Brown added there was also no need to ask for a further £250,000 as a similar amount in capital funds had already been allocated.
As reported earlier this month, St Modwen told the district council it no longer wanted to build the schemes for the Regis Centre and the Hothamton sites.
The proposals included a multiplex, hotel and flats on the seafront and a food store at Hothamton, in Queensway.
It was originally valued at £105m. This had fallen to some £25m last year.
However, Cllr Brown claimed the council was in an ‘excellent position’ to drive regeneration forward.
She said: “While the recession has made regeneration of Bognor Regis difficult in recent years, we are now in an excellent position to drive forward our plans for the vital regeneration the town needs.
“This is a very exciting time for Bognor Regis. Following the positive announcements that Next and Marks and Spencer are opening retail stores here, the government backing for the A29 and the news about Rolls-Royce’s decision to open its new technology and logistic centre.”
Fellow member Cllr Ann Smee (Con, Bersted) agreed: “Regeneration has really taken-off in my ward north Bersted.
“I therefore welcome the new recommendation and am delighted we now have the opportunity to bring forward and consult with our residents on some really exciting and innovative plans.”
Cllr Roger Nash (Lab, Pevensey) said the key point had to be that the council listened to what local people want and warned they should not put expediency over what people wanted.
Cllr Nash said: “I am very glad that the leader has changed her mind. There was clearly a great deal of pressure up there and I will say in my time as a district councillor I have never had an issue where I have had so much representation.
“We were in danger of foisting on Bognor Regis a scheme that was largely unwanted and was unpopular and would actually cause more problems then it would solve.
“Many people in the Bognor Regis area and beyond do not want a multiplex on the Regis site, they want something else, they want something more creative, they want something that will be a real attraction.”
Cllr Dr James Walsh (LD Beach) asked for the leader to give the ‘firmest undertaking’ that people would be listened to.
Cllr Dr Walsh said: “This council needs to listen to the people of Bognor Regis.
“There has been consultation but it has been sham consultation because it has taken place but it has not been listened too.”
Cllr Jim Brooks (I, Marine) said the council had missed the opportunity to start with a blank canvas
He said: “Yes there has been a shift here which I suppose I should welcome, but I am going to vote against this amendment and I object to being told anyone who objects is not for Bognor Regis.
“The reasons I will not be voting for the amendment is that I don’t think it goes far enough. It talks about ‘commercially viable’, well who should decide if a project is commercially viable?
“This scheme is about regeneration. It does not have to make a profit. The problem with this is that real regeneration should benefit the whole town and we don’t consider the investment in the town just the profit it will bring in.”
Simon MacDougall (I, Bersted) said: “You have to listen to consultation, you have to listen to what is coming back. Not just what you want to cherry pick.
“One of the problems we had with the consultation last time is that it was skewed. It took in the whole district instead of concentrating on the people who live in the Bognor area.”
An amendment to Cllr Brown’s suggestions was put forward by Cllr Paul Wells (LD, Aldwick East) he said: “Clearly there is a tide of opposition in Bognor Regis and I am amazed and surprised at how many people have taken to social media, the local newspaper and radio to actually put their side of the story across.
“But with this amendment the devil is in the detail and I would like to suggest a further amendment that we take out the phrasing ‘the core elements of the original scheme as set out in section six’.
“Because basically if we go out to consult on this we are consulting on what we have already been told people don’t want. If we go with it then we are going out to consult on the St Modwen scheme and people have told us that is not what they want.”
Cllr Well’s amendment was defeated with 30 against, nine in favour and six abstentions.
Cllr Brown’s amendment was accepted with 44 for, one against and one abstention.
Both of the votes were recorded.