A ‘ground breaking’ study to explore Bognor Regis regeneration options has been allocated a budget of £260,000.
At an Arun District Council meeting last night, July 20, – which also passed a seafront improvements plan worth £640,000 – councillors voted to support a report which called for ‘feasibility’ to be assessed.
In the report by Karl Roberts, director of planning and economic regeneration, the need to commission a consultant was outlined to determine the ‘risks and rewards’ of different progression routes.
While councillor Phil Hitchins deemed it ‘ground breaking’ and a means to ‘move forward’, councillor Paul Wells admitted he backed the recommendation ‘with a heavy heart’.
Cllr Wells said: “I am not saying it is the best thing since sliced bread, but we have to undertake this work to know what will come out of it.
“I do cringe when we start spending this money on consultations, all I would say is if we are paying this money we need to see something at the end of it.
“We have seen it before and that has never come to the fore.”
A desire to ‘move as quickly as possible’, voiced by councillor Francis Oppler, was shared by many, as was the need to keep the community involved.
Calls to ensure leisure facilities were the focus of the designs, and residential kept to a minimum, were also echoed around the chamber.
Cllr Oppler said: “Future revenue streams and regeneration should be separate.”
This sentiment was also stressed by councillor Jim Brooks, who said: “We use the word regeneration – money brought into the town, not money brought into the bottom line of the council.”
In addition to the estimated £260,000 ‘collective cost’ for a consultant’s report, the report recommended ‘the council continues to support, in principle’ a scheme to regenerate the existing Alexandra Theatre and adjacent public house.
It states this could be done ‘through either improvements and modifications or complete redevelopment’.
Mr Roberts also outlined that this would seek to ‘provide an enhanced ‘cultural offer’ and a ‘landmark building accommodating visitor attraction(s), residential development and restaurant(s)’.
While the existing Place St Maur area would be ‘a public realm for events and activities’.
It also called for ‘delegated authority’ to be granted to Mr Roberts, ‘in consultation with the leader of the council’, to procure the feasibility studies on both sites and ‘to draw down and authorise expenditure’.
The report also features an ‘advice’ document by Urban Delivery dated June 2016.
Urban Delivery helped the council assess the viability of the St Modwen schemes, principles of which it states ‘will guide future development’.
The 57 pages go on to cover ‘recent progress’, varying degrees of involvement for the council - from acting as developer to selling the land - and the possible merits of ‘de-coupling’ the two sites.
It states the latter ‘may allow the Hothamton Site to progress in advance of the Regis Centre’.
Dividing The Regis Centre into plots, allowing Whitbread’s the hotel rights and predicted completion dates for each option are also listed with the ‘longest of all’ delivery routes deemed to be autumn 2020.
Costing and designs, which it repeatedly stresses are ‘indicative only’ are also featured.