Parts of plan should be applauded

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Over the past few weeks the Observer has reported some interesting stories about how Bognor Regis could be regenerated, with potential new investment in leisure facilities that included the revelation the erstwhile developer St Modwen has come up with revamped plans for the Hothampton and Regis Centre sites.

There are certain parts of these ‘proposals’ which I wholeheartedly welcome: Bognor Regis town centre and seafront look tired and run down but have the potential to be vibrant and welcoming places for residents and visitors.

Now that Arun District Council has accepted, after a long period of prevarication, that potential profits from one site can be used to subsidise other schemes, I feel at last the town could be on the road to a better future.

It is also very heartening to learn of the acceptance by the developers and the district council that it is futile to spend millions of local chargepayers’ money in pursuing a compulsory purchase order on the Regis Centre complex.

Instead, they have taken the sensible position of putting some of the expected surplus generated into a refurbishment and facelift of the current theatre and its surrounds to hopefully give the town something more attractive, bigger and financially sustainable.

The concept of a hotel on the Regis Centre site is a very good idea because the town suffers from a serious lack of affordable hotel accommodation.

Whilst there is a lot to applaud there are parts of the plan that are potentially harmful.

I urge our councillors and local authority officials not to destroy significant aspects of Bognor Regis’ heritage in their efforts to improve the town.

The idea of replacing the historically-important Picturedrome with a multiplex cinema on the Regis Centre site will not only destroy an important part of the town’s heritage but be misguided and self-defeating. Bognor Regis already has an iconic cinema which the local town council quite rightly saved from closure some two years ago; if it hadn’t acted to save the Picturedrome, it would now be luxury flats!

I do not argue for the preservation of The Picturedrome simply on historical merit but on economic grounds as well.

This historically-important cinema is able to expand on to the small car-park area behind in order to create another three or four more screens without losing important historical features.

With appropriate private investment, plus successful grant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for example, the future of the Picturedrome could be secured.

I urge a rethink from Arun District Council – do not act in haste to repent at leisure. The stakes are too high.

Mike Phillips

Normanton Avenue, Bognor Regis