Town centre manager role to be scrapped

Toyubur Rahman
Toyubur Rahman

The post of town centre manager for Bognor Regis is set to be scrapped after the incumbent’s contract comes to an end.

Toyubur Rahman, who is employed by the Bognor Regis Town Centre Management Partnership, has served in the role since May 2014.

This organisation was made up of the University of Chichester, Arun District Council, Butlin’s, Bognor Regis Town Council, Bognor Regis Traders’ Association and the Bognor Regis Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Although a succession plan was put in place with the establishment of the Business Improvement District (BID), the BID have decided to take a different direction and will not be retaining the services of a town centre manager.

The BID thanked Mr Rahman for his efforts and contribution to the town over the last four years, but said it was exploring alternative ways of delivering its business plan.

When Mr Rahman arrived the vacancy rate for the town’s core area reached a high of 14 per cent, but this figure now stands at 6.7 per cent.

Meanwhile mobile phone signal counters have showed that visits to the town centre in 2018 are set to beat 2017’s figures.

Success stories during his time in the town include improved shop frontages, an ice rink for Bognor Regis last year and innovative events taking place such as Aerial Birdman.

Mariya James, from Boutique Roma in The Arcade, said “I am very sad to see Toyubur leave, as he changed the atmosphere in this town, he has worked really hard to help businesses and there are green shoots appearing everywhere you look and I will miss his positivity.”

Nick Stuart Nicolson, president of Bognor Regis Chamber of Commerce & Industry, added: “Having helped to select Mr Rahman, I am pleased to see what he has achieved through his aspirations for the town. I feel the timing of his departure is unfortunate, but wish him well for the future.”

Jeremy Pardey, resort director at Butlin’s, added: “The initiatives implemented in the town, have been successful through his persistence and ‘can do’ attitude.

“The implementation of the BID and the tremendous ballot result was due to his tenacity in persuading and encouraging businesses to take a chance on something new and different for the town. He managed to demonstrate the value of town centre management in the early years which is why the businesses could see the benefit of a BID.”

Glenna Frost, town clerk at Bognor Regis Town Council, said: “we have supported the town centre manager role and worked with Mr Rahman on various projects over the past four years.

“During this time the town centre has moved forward in many respects which demonstrates what can be achieved through collaborative partnership working.”

Gill Brown, Arun District Council leader, added: “He made an immediate impact with his passion and positivity to galvanise the business community, to take action and get involved in town centre initiatives. Everything that he has achieved has been done through a proactive partnership approach and diplomacy with stakeholders.”

Chris Heaps, from Heaps of PCs in London Road and chair of the traders’ association, added: “The role meant that he was dealing with everything from large strategic projects such as public realm improvements to very operational matters such as anti-social behaviour, littering and putting on events.

“It all matters and getting the basics right was a key strategy at the start. Many people and organisations want to talk to him about a project or initiative because they feel he is one the best people to help get projects off the ground and influence the right people to make it happen.”

The quality of shop fronts is of great importance to both the character of the town and the vitality of local business and retailing. Mr Rahman and Arun District Council planning officers collaborated to target buildings and shops fronts that need maintenance.

Nine out ten times a simple letter informing businesses owners and leaseholders of their responsibilities has sufficed to carry out works. This has seen some great results. A conservative estimate of £4.5m of additional private sector investment has been put into frontage and building improvements.

Innovative events such as the unique Aerial Birdman took place in the town. This was an event featuring a 150 metre zip wire from a height of 15 metres right through the middle of the pedestrian area. A total of 300 flyers took to the skies; participants were in a ‘superman’ harness travelling at speeds of up to 30mph, meaning they could stretch out their arms and ‘fly’ through the town. Businesses reported bumper sales from 40,277 counted people.

Another example was the ice rink that came to town at Christmas 2017. This was a first for the town and a sudden opportunity that required all the stakeholders to work quickly to make it happen. An ice rink has been on the wish list for the local community for many years.

Mr Rahman, working in partnership with Arun District Council and the Regis Centre, secured a real ice rink as part of the Christmas festivities. Positive reviews on social media were overwhelming and letters of appreciation came in from local schools.

Professor Jane Longmore, vice chancellorat the University of Chichester, said “We thank Mr Rahman for his service over the past four years. The achievements have been remarkable and the town is a significantly better place due to his efforts. He is a highly regarded professional and a real asset to the Place Management industry and will be missed.”

According to the BID, the management of the town centre has moved into a ‘new and exciting phase’ and it is taking the opportunity to put in place the right structure to deliver its objectives.

Directors of the BID and its partners have been working hard on the first phase of delivery, and this week have introduced the town’s first dedicated community warden.

The BID has recently signed up to a new partnership with ‘Love Bognor Regis’ created and managed by Vinco Marketing.

Paul Wells, chairman of the BID, said: “The BID has started to deliver some of the priority projects voted for last year, and the team’s focus is now on working with our partners to deliver a range of exciting Christmas activities. This includes the planned return of the successful ice rink sourced by one of the local businesses last year.”

Mrs Brown added: “The establishment of a Business Improvement District in Bognor Regis is a great step forward and will ensure the town centre has the resources to be effectively managed for years to come. The district council is committed to the successful delivery of the BID and will be working closely with all our partners to achieve this.”