VOTE: Visitor centre facing the axe

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A key tourism service in Bognor Regis could be axed before the summer. The town’s visitor information centre faces an uncertain future which may last no longer than the end of this month.

The shock news has followed a row between current operator Arun District Council and its intended successor, Arun Arts, which runs the Regis Centre.

A funding gap believed to be £40,000 to £50,000 separates the two sides.

The failure to agree a deal to move the visitor centre from its home of several decades on the western side of the Place St Maur on March 31 to the Regis Centre opposite will hit Bognor’s ability to help holidaymakers. Some 46,500 people use the visitor centre yearly.

Emergency meetings are being held within the district council to find a way to keep the service going.

But a spokeswoman said on Tuesday: “We are looking for a long-term solution and we have to see what we can do. But I can’t categorically say what is going to happen to the centre.”

Arun Arts chairman of trustees Jim Brooks said: “We would like to see it in the Regis Centre to bring more people to the building but we can’t afford to accommodate it without more money from the district council.

“The district council wanted us to give up one of our rooms for the visitor centre, which would have hit our income.

“We were prepared to accept that but we wanted to improve the front of the building, so it has a more prominent vista, and put in sliding doors.

“The money the council was offering would have come nowhere near paying for the two members of staff we would have been taking on, let alone that work.

“We are a charity and we could not have afforded all those costs but I still hope a way can be found to overcome our differences.”

The council spokeswoman countered that detailed discussions and a considerable amount of time had been devoted by council officers to the transfer. They were perplexed by the failure of the talks when the terms and conditions were unchanged.

“Regrettably, Arun Arts has now pulled out of taking over running the visitor information centre in the town at the last minute.

“The council was informed last Friday by the trustees it no longer wished to continue with the takeover.

“The council had accepted the bid put forward by Arun Arts in its entirety...and is extremely disappointed the company has pulled out,” she said.

It was November 2009 the council announced it would stop running the visitor centre and its counterpart at Arundel.

The move was among the measures designed to save £3.2m and ensure the local authority could cope with government funding cutbacks.