Student housing hailed as a ‘catalyst’ for Bognor regeneration

James Howells, Charlotte Grant and premises owner Abhay Varma at the exhibition
James Howells, Charlotte Grant and premises owner Abhay Varma at the exhibition

The owner of a high street building which is the subject of a bid for student housing has said the team ‘hopes it will be a catalyst for regeneration’.

Abhay Varma, who owns the premises currently occupied by Wilkinsons, said: “Bognor doesn’t have to be Brighton, it doesn’t have to be Bournemouth, it has the potential to be something in its own right and young people will help.”

Speaking at an exhibition of the plans, held on Friday at the Regis Centre, Charlotte Grant of town planning consultants Harwood Savin Ltd, described the plans as a ‘vertical extension’.

“It is a good use of space, it will bring something to the town which is cool, modern and meeting a need – and it is something outside of the normal shop opening hours.

She added: “There are an awful lot of flat rooves that could be used and it means freeing up the other properties for the private sector.”

Architect James Howells added the group’s hope that the plans, which could house ‘95ish’, would ‘help ease the impact’ of the 500 new students a year forecast for the university campus’ technology park.

“Students are coming whether we build this or not,” he said. “It is away from the residential areas, we know students can be disturbing and we want to only bring benefits.

“It is a 15 minute walk and research shows students don’t bring cars.”

Charlotte added: “Because it is stepped back you will only see very small pieces of it.”

Speaking about its overlook, onto Morrisons’ car park, she said: “Morrisons may decide to build something on there but it is a case of first come first served.

“We are hoping to submit the application for the autumn. The client is keen to get it right so he wants to spend that time getting it right.”

The plans have been welcomed by many, however, some have expressed fears the town will be turned ‘into a student only zone’.

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