Watchdog dismisses claims of rule break

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A WATCHDOG has cleared a council and developer after its advertising of controversial regeneration plans for Bognor Regis were branded misleading by residents.

The Advertising Standards Authority has cleared Arun District Council and St Modwen Properties Plc of breaching the Advertising Standards Code.

The watchdog conducted an investigation after receiving complaints from six members of the public.

They claimed parts of a circular and local press advertising regarding the proposed development of a new multiplex cinema for the Regis Centre site were misleading, and could not be substantiated.

In its adjudication published yesterday (July 17), the ASA rejected all the complaints.

Gillian Brown, the leader of Arun District Council, said: “We are pleased that the ASA has found in our favour and dismissed the complaints that sought to portray our communications regarding public consultation on the St Modwen development proposals as either deliberately misleading or unable to be 
substantiated.

“The detail in the adjudication acknowledges that all statements made in the advertising of the public consultation were in fact supported by sound evidence and that none could be considered to 
be misleading.

“Responding to the ASA’s requests for this supporting evidence has taken a great deal of officer time, and now it is good to focus once more on the real issue, which is bringing forward a first-class development scheme for the future benefit of Bognor Regis.”

The complaints focused on statements made by the council and its preferred partner for the scheme, St Modwen, about jobs, options for two cinemas in the area, young people’s comments on a cinema from the draft leisure strategy, parking options and capacity.

A further complaint questioning the council’s motivation in seeking to improve Bognor Regis was also rejected.

In a letter to Nigel Lynn, Arun’s chief executive, the ASA’s investigation executive said it found the evidence provided by the council and St Modwen was sufficient to substantiate all the claims made in the advertising material which appeared in the Bognor Regis Guardian on November 28 of last year, and it would not be upholding any of the six complaints.

The advertising – which included a wrap-around front page, including the headline ‘Wanted for Bognor Regis a £40,000 REWARD’ – publicised the proposed scheme for the Regis Centre site which was out for public consultation at the time.

Inside the newspaper, another advert sought to explain the effect the council and developers believed the new facilities would have on the town’s existing cinema, The Picturedrome.