Decision nears for Sir Richard Hotham Bognor plan

An artist's impression of the seaside development proposed by the Sir Richard Hotham Project which draws on the architecture of many of Bognor's buildings of the past                                                                    DM15041580a
An artist's impression of the seaside development proposed by the Sir Richard Hotham Project which draws on the architecture of many of Bognor's buildings of the past DM15041580a

D-DAY for Bognor Regis regeneration will be February 24.

Arun District Council is set to decide the £80m Sir Richard Hotham Project’s plans that afternoon.

Its development control committee will consider the developer’s ambitious proposals for the Regis Centre, Hothamton and Esplanade Theatre sites.

The council refused permission as a landowner for the scheme last year but planning permission will be decided on whether the ideas match Arun’s planning policies, Bognor’s neighbourhood plan and national planning guidelines.

Sir Richard Hotham Project director Thomas Elliott told a presentation to community groups last week: “Sir Richard Hotham tried to do this 200 years ago. He succeeded to a point. Now, it’s our turn and we can do it if we all pull together.

“Years ago, Bognor used to be a really successful seaside resort but, package holidays came in, and seaside resorts dwindled.

“But, with all the global unrest, that business is going to start coming back. We have to be ready for that by regenerating the Regis Centre with a boardwalk.

“We can start work this year, or very close to it, depending on (Regis Centre operator) Arun Arts and their facilities.”

The project is fully funded by national developer Morgan Sindall, backed by property practice Lambert Smith Hampton.

It envisages a broadwalk on the Regis Centre of 65,000sq ft of shops and includes 16,000sq ft of leisure and recreation facilities like a spa and gym, a 58-bed Premier Inn hotel and a coffee shop and dance studio for Arun Arts. There will also be 193 flats.

On Hothamton, the plan will see a £25m theatre and conference centre with 1,100 seats, a 48-bed hotel and an enhanced children’s play area.

A destination restaurant run by a famous chef will be built on the Esplanade Theatre site opposite the Royal Norfolk Hotel.

The aim is to regenerate Bognor by providing daytime and night-time attractions to draw visitors from around the area.

The theatre would be run by the Ambassador Theatre Group and could host headline acts like Jools Holland and chart group Plan B as well as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a circus school of the Moscow State Circus.

The University of Chichester’s expanding performance arts courses would also be based there.

“Having student accommodation on the Hothamton site, as Arun has proposed, will not kill Bognor but you are taking something very valuable and not regenerating it to its full potential,” said Mr Elliott.

Architect Neil Holland said his aim with the main buildings had been to bring some historic life back to Bognor as he had done at the award-winning Esplanade Grande seafront flats.

“What I have tried to do is to bring a lot of what has been knocked down, the central element of it, back into a modern building.

“Bognor is almost like a town in mourning for what has been lost because what has been put back has not had the oomph or excitement to what was here in its heyday.

“I hope you feel Bognor is getting its identity back and not becoming some anonymous place which could be anywhere. I want to give it its heart back,” he said.

The Sir Hotham Project was one of 14 regeneration ideas for Bognor submitted to Arun last year.

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