Councillors reject £80m Bognor Regis restoration plan

Artist's impression of the Sir Richard Hotham project which has been turned down
Artist's impression of the Sir Richard Hotham project which has been turned down

Councillors have voted unanimously to refuse the £80m plans to renovate Bognor Regis.

In a special meeting of Arun District Council’s development control committee, members voted 15 to 0 against the proposed Sir Richard Hotham Project plans, which included demolishing The Regis Centre to make way for housing, shops, office space and a hotel and redeveloping the Hothamton car park to build a 1,100-seat theatre.

Thomas Elliott, director of the Sir Richard Hotham project

Thomas Elliott, director of the Sir Richard Hotham project

Earlier in the meeting, planning officers recommended that members of the committee should refuse the application.

While approving of the jobs created by £80m of investment in the project and the designs of the proposed buildings, they were concerned that plans to alter the road infrastructure, which included making The Esplanade part of a one-way system, would worsen traffic.

But the biggest area of concern was in the lack of affordable housing created by the project. Of the 191 apartments planned, only 27 – 14 per cent – would be made available to those on the council’s waiting list, less than half of its 30 per cent target.

Speaking before the votes were cast, Councillor Jacqui Maconachie said that while it seemed an “attractive proposition”, the lack of affordable housing was “tantamount to criminal” and critised the lack of parking in the plans.

My fear would be that The Regis Centre gets redeveloped but then the other sites can’t be finished. The last thing we want is to see Bognor turn into a building site

Councillor Barbara Oakley

“As a planning authority and as councillors, we have resposibilities bestowed on us. This is all the land the council owns in Bognor, and I have major concerns about parking. How can we attract visitors to Bognor if we’re short of parking?”

Councillor Barbara Oakley warned that the plans would be risky given the UK’s current economic climate.

“Developments like these are at the mercy of the national economic situation, and given the referendum on Europe goodness knows what’s going to happen to it.

“My fear would be that The Regis Centre gets redeveloped but then the other sites can’t be finished. The last thing we want

is to see Bognor turn into a building site.”

When asked if he would continue to pursue the project after the verdict, developer Thomas Elliott said he would.

“I’d like to have the opportunity to have more time and enter into meaningful dialogue with the council.”

Mr Elliott also has the option to appeal the decision.