VOTE: Should a definite timescale be put on development of the Hothamton and Regis Centre car park sites?

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Projects for two key Bognor Regis sites must be revealed by the end of this year.

Developer St Modwen has been set the tough deadline by councillors to create multi-million pound schemes to transform the Hothamton and Regis Centre car parks, which are deliverable in the current tough economic climate.

The ultimatum for completing detailed exploratory work was issued unanimously at Arun District Council’s full meeting last week. They rejected the alternative of extending again the time in which St Modwen can produce a planning application for the vital element of Bognor’s regeneration.

Cllr Norman Dingemans, who leads Arun’s regeneration work, said: “The agreement with St Modwen has been extended in the past and we are reaching a stage where we need to make sure we can deliver something on both sites.

“It doesn’t have to be at the same time but it has to be in the same agreement.”

The council’s consultants, Urban Delivery, would spend the autumn working with St Modwen and the council to see what progress could be made.

“This is trying to move on this development which has been floored up to now by the recession.

“Urban Delivery have done a good job so far and I hope they are going to help us to deliver a satisfactory solution,” he said.

The regeneration ideas for the Hothamton site, off Queensway, and the Regis Centre location on Belmont Street, began to emerge some six years ago.

St Modwen was chosen by Arun as its preferred partner to create a mixture of housing, retail and office space on Hothamton and, more controversially, luxury flats as well as leisure to replace the Regis Centre.

The redevelopment is central to the council’s plans to provide a major economic boost to Bognor town centre.

Cllr Jim Brooks said: “St Modwen must be told to put up or shut up. Bognor has been blighted by big plans that have come to nothing over the last 40 years.

“The marina was the last one. McAlpine was given extension after extension after extension and it still came to nothing.”

Cllr Francis Oppler said: “We need to be tough with St Modwen to deliver what was proposed in the first place.

“These two sites must continue to be linked. It would be a disaster for Bognor of a huge proportion if they were to be separated.

“It would be a repeat of the disasters of the past.”

Memories of the Theatre Royal being bulldozed and the rubble left on the seafront before the Regis Centre was built lingered, he said.

“If we go down the road of developing Hothamton in isolation, we can write off the Regis Centre for the next 20-30 years.

“We have got to hold out for high quality leisure and entertaiment uses on the Regis Centre site.

“It’s the last oasis Bognor has to really make the seafront special and we have to hold on to that,” he said.

Cllr Roger Nash said: “There may be other ways we can implement this. The future of the Hothamton site is one we have to think about very carefully.

“I’m not in favour in any way of it being separated from the Regis Centre. But the market for luxury flats there has gone. We must not repeat the mistake of 40 years ago when the then Bognor Regis Urban District Council panicked and knocked down a perfectly good theatre to be replaced by a space-age ‘whizzy’ development and within three weeks that development company had gone bust.”

“If a revised scheme is brought forward for the Regis Centre site, it must be quality and bring something new to the town.”