An £80million project to redevelop a series of key sites in Bognor Regis has been resoundingly rejected.
Arun District Council’s development control committee turned down the Sir Richard Hotham Project proposals by 11 votes to one, with one abstention, today (February 1).
In refusing the scheme, councillors said that the benefits did not outweigh its ‘failure’ to achieve ‘sufficient design excellence’, along with concerns over the level of car parking.
Committee vice-chairman Dawn Hall said: “I think Bognor Regis deserves perfection and that is what we have got to hold out for. This design is not good enough.”
The plans sought to replace the Regis Centre with more than 6,000 square metres of commercial space, a 64-bedroom hotel and 192 flats, along with a new boardwalk and plaza at Place St Maur.
A 1,100 seater theatre and 48-bedroom hotel and conference facility was proposed for the Hothamton car park.
The Esplanade Theatre site would also be converted into a restaurant, with relocation of the existing skate park.
The designs were criticised by independent consultants, Design South East, which was asked by Arun to provide an independent view.
Hugh Coster, of Bognor Regis Civic Society, along with members of the committee, drew on the wording of the consultants’ report.
Mr Coster warned the plans were ‘not regeneration’ and argued they would be a ‘disaster’ for the town’s progress. But supporters praised the scheme, which they said had backing from investors, with the risk of the town missing out if approval was not granted.
“This is a transformational proposal you have in front of you,” said Neil Parlett, director of Lambert Smith Hampton, who said it would make a ‘big difference’ to the retail and leisure experience of the town.
Councillor Colin Oliver-Redgate said the plans would attract visitors to the town.
But others questioned the viability of the proposed theatre. Councillor Phil Hitchins said: “I don’t think that will do anything to enhance the town and may be the ruination of Queensway. I believe it will be a white elephant within a few years.”
The project team declined to comment.
Arun to press on with own ideas
Arun District Council will plough on with its own ideas for regeneration of Bognor Regis after rejecting the Sir Richard Hotham Project scheme’s plans for a second time.
Council planners had recommended approval of the plans, ten months after a previous application was rejected.
Arun, as landowner, will now explore alternatives.
Speaking after the decision, an Arun spokesman said: “Councillors felt that the scheme is of insufficient design quality. The Sir Richard Hotham Project has the right of appeal against this decision and can submit a revised proposal.
“As the landowner, Arun is considering its own ideas for regeneration of the sites and this will be discussed at the Bognor Regis regeneration committee meeting at the end of February and the minutes of that meeting are due to be considered at full council in March.
“No further decisions would be made until after that meeting.”