VOTE: Is it important to retain the Alexandra Theatre?

Stage shows in Bognor Regis are to enjoy a reprieve.

Plans to demolish the Regis Centre and its Alexandra Theatre are being put on hold.

Developer St Modwen has been allowed to delay its multi-million-pound scheme for the seafront site.

The company was due to have delivered its proposals for a new leisure complex there to Arun District Council by next March.

But councillors have made an initial decision to enable the company to take more time while it focuses on developing the Hothamton car park off Queensway first.

Gillian Brown, Arun’s leader, said it made sense to go ahead with just one site.

She told Aldwick Parish Council on Monday. “We may have to look at splitting the two sites because they were linked to go ahead together.

“St Modwen may look at the Hothamton site going ahead first. They are working on getting a big anchor tenant there to act as a catalyst to start that site off.

“The details have to be agreed by us by next March. That’s when our development agreement with them comes to an end if nothing happens.”

Mike Stevens, the managing director of Regis Centre Ltd, said the Place St Maur building should survive.

“This is a great asset to the town and surrounding area, and provides not only affordable commercial productions of music, dance, and theatre.

“It also enables local community groups to practise and perform, as well as the students of the University of Chichester, who love to be associated with a real working theatre,” he said.

Theatre-goers at Monday night’s concert by the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra welcomed the auditorium and its 364 seats being kept.

William Oldfield, 58, of The Steyne, said: “I am pleased for the time being the Regis Centre is safe from development.

“A town like Bognor needs a theatre. Everywhere you turn there are new flats and other developments being built.

“We need to preserve buildings like the Regis Centre that can be enjoyed by all.”

Aldwick Road resident Mary West, 49, said: “The theatre is a lovely place to come to.

“Although the threat of redevelopment remains, hopefully, those in power will see just what a great place this is and that it deserves to stay in the town for many, many years.”

The Regis Centre has overcome several closure threats since it opened in 1980.

The latest began in April 2006. Arun asked competing developers to devise schemes, with flats, for modern leisure facilities on the prime site.

St Modwen was chosen, but the recession hit its plans after it had signed Apollo cinemas and Openwide Entertainment as partners.

The last-known proposals replaced the traditional design of the Alexandra Theatre with a series of multi-purpose performance spaces.

But Arun councillors meeting last week unanimously approved allowing St Modwen to leave the Regis Centre site behind while putting forward plans for Hothamton. A timetable is being compiled for that.

Roger Nash said the decision could see the centre remain for a long time.

“In the current market conditions, the Regis Centre site, which depends on a considerable number of luxury flats, is not positive at the moment.

“In my mind, it will not be positive for a long time to come. We are not looking at months.

“We are looking at years before anything substantial happens on that site, unfortunately,” he said.

“We need to see what we can do to improve the Regis Centre building we have there because I think it’s going to be there for some quite considerable time.”