Bid to back pier and cinema is considered

C121117-1 Stock Bognor Pier  phot kateJPET Feb13 bognor
C121117-1 Stock Bognor Pier phot kateJPET Feb13 bognor

HERITAGE experts are considering an approach to make the pier and cinema in Bognor Regis sparkle.

They are assessing an expression of interest for up to £5m to make the historic buildings jewels in the crown of the town.

The expression has been by a working group of enthusiasts to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s heritage enterprise scheme.

Officials from the fund have given an initial response to the inquiry, but it is not yet known if it will agree to the request progressing to the next stage of its application process.

Town and district councillor Roger Nash is a member of the working group. He said: “I would hope we will have a formal response from the fund before Christmas, if not, early in the new year.

“From a personal point of view, I think it’s looking quite bright. The concept of combining the two buildings in one application is a very good one.

“That’s how we want to go forward. The pier and the cinema are the two most heritage-worthy buildings in the town.

“The bid is to make improvements to both of them and to bring them back to how they were when they were built. We want to restore them to their original glory.”

The pier was built in 1865 and the Picturedrome followed, as assembly rooms, in 1886. Both have Grade II listed building status.

The pier has been owned by John Ayers since 1996. He is working with the Friends of Bognor Pier to support their bid of the heritage application.

The cinema has been owned by the town council for three years through the Bognor Pier Company, which used to own both buildings.

Cllr Nash cautioned the application was not a quick fix. The restoration projects would take several years to complete, even with the heritage fund’s backing.

He expected it to take up 
to two years to cross the various hurdles which the fund expects any bid to overcome to prove its value to an area’s heritage before it makes a grant.

A lot of legal agreements would also need to be signed between the parties involved with the bid. It is intended a trust will own the pier to take charge of the improvements.

“The trust has several ideas. In the long term, they are looking to restore the pier. Their short term plans include building a new landing stage and improving the pier’s buildings.”

Town council members generally backed the approach to the fund. But Cllr David Edwards (C, Hotham) said he was unhappy at any prospect of the council becoming involved in owning the pier because of the steep maintenance costs.