Bognor Regis loses chance to gain national tourism award

Chairman of Arun District council, Dudley Wensley, and the mayor of Bognor Regis, Sandra Daniells raising the Blue Flag on the seafront.
Chairman of Arun District council, Dudley Wensley, and the mayor of Bognor Regis, Sandra Daniells raising the Blue Flag on the seafront.

Penny-pinching has cost Bognor Regis the chance to gain a national tourism award.

Arun District Council has refused to pay the modest application fee for the town’s seafront to be considered for a Quality Coast Award this year.

The council declined to spend the money because of the squeeze on its finance.

Arun’s decision has meant only one standard – the Blue Flag recognised across Europe – is fluttering above the eastern promenade this summer.

The situation is in contrast to Littlehampton where both flags are flying proudly above its beach

Arun was asked to put the money saved by the cost-cutting move towards keeping the town’s visitor information centre open.

Ian Harding, who represents the chamber of commerce on tourism matters, said: “The council should put whatever savings it has made from this to help save our information centre.

“I can understand Arun’s approach in not applying for the Quality Coast Award if Bognor has a Blue Flag.

“It’s very good news the town has the Blue Flag again because it is a prestigious award.

“But to make it a truly good summer for Bognor we need to have a rethink about closing the information centre on August 31.”

The cost of applying for the Quality Coast award came to £810 compared to the £650 for Bognor’s Blue Flag. Extra maintenance costs needed to make sure Bognor qualified for the Coast award – such as modifying signs and renovating drinking taps – have not been worked out.

Organiser Keep Britain Tidy says a beach that achieves a Quality Coast Award will receive a nationally-recognised mark of approval to help to generate interest from the public and the media.

“The flag is a symbol of quality which guarantees to visitors that the beach is one of the best in the country,” it states.

Arun’s events development officer Phil Graham said the Quality Coast Award had to be entered for three years. Bognor’s three-year cycle had expired. There was a further year to go in Littlehampton.

“In future, to reduce the costs associated with the award when we are given approval to apply for a Blue Flag award we will not automatically apply for a Quality Coast Award.

“We will only apply for a Quality Coast Award if it is clear we will not be able to apply for a Blue Flag award,” he said.

“Our main focus will be to achieve the prestigious Blue Flag in the first instance and the Quality Coast Award will be considered as a secondary measure.”

Bognor’s latest Blue Flag was hoisted for the first time yesterday by Arun’s chairman, Dudley Wensley, and the town mayor of Bognor, Sandra Daniells.

Arun head of strategy, partnership, economic and cultural development Jaqui Ball said: “This means Bognor is one of the best beaches in Britain and Europe.”

The flag is awarded only to elite beaches which have passed strict checks on bathing water quality, environmental management and environmental control the previous summer.

A small crowd of council members and officers, as well as bystanders, watched the ceremony.

It is the first time the Blue Flag has flown on the seafront for two years and the ninth time in all.

The town has rarely been able to keep hold of the status for successive years because heavy summer storms have taken their toll on the quality of its bathing water.

But Bognor can bask in the accolade of being one of just ten beaches in the south east. This is seven less than last year.

Phil Barton, the chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, which also runs the Blue Flag scheme in England, said: “The continuing high standards of these beaches are testament to the hard work carried out by the beach managers throughout the year in order to provide clean and safe beaches for everyone.”