Creative arts could be key to regeneration

GET creative to regenerate Bognor Regis, a new pressure group in the town has urged.

4BR said the future of the Regis Centre site should be linked firmly to the arts.

Successful examples of the effect artistic attractions could have on seaside towns could be seen with the Turner Contemporary in Margate, which had brought in £100m to the Kent town, it said, as well as Bexhill’s De La Warr building and the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings.

4BR’s Steve Goodheart said its vision for the key seafront site of the Regis Centre was far away from the scheme last put forward by St Modwen for Arun District Council.

“The vision of 4BR is embryonic but is based around imagination, ambition and collaboration.

“We share the council’s view that one of the key locations for the proposed regeneration is the prominent seafront site, the Regis Centre,” he said.

“Likewise, we share their view that is good economic practice to have an ‘anchor tenant’ secured for a new development to ensure its success. However, where we differ is that we believe this party should be a cultural anchor tenant rather than one based in the retail or leisure sectors.

“We see that this space would best be used to construct a new iconic building. A large area within such an iconic building could be made available to a national art gallery, both for its own exhibitions and for touring national and international art exhibitions.

“Alongside this, a William Blake destination venue could be housed – a centre of discovery where Blake’s creativity and imagination can be presented.”

This space, he said, would attract creative thinkers to the town and inspire a new generation to invest in it.

“The theatre area could then be developed into a large community multi-purpose venue with indoor and outdoor facilities.

“Activities that could take place would range from local to national events such as stage performances, conferences, exhibitions, forums, cinema, music, 
dance and festivals as well as sports events including boxing, judo, darts and many more.

“Flexibility is the key word here. Spaces for many community groups, family events, tourist information could all be designed into the space.”

The centre’s operator, Arun Arts, would be fully consulted, he pledged.

Mr Goodheart also spoke at Monday’s meeting of Bognor Regis Town Council. He accused Arun District Council of arrogance in seeking to progress the St Modwen plan the developer had abandoned.

“The multiplex is something which should not be included,” he said. “I would like the town council to demand of Arun there is time set aside for further designs to come forward and the chance for the public to vote on which one they favour instead of what we are being told is going to happen – the resurrection of the St Modwen plan and that’s it.”

Hugh Coster, Bognor Regis Civic Society’s deputy chairman, told the meeting: “The town council should write to Arun insisting any new proposals do not include a mulitplex or anything similar which would undermine the investment of Bognor taxpayers who have wholeheartedly supported the town council’s investment in purchasing and improving the Picturedrome.

“Without that, the town would have been left without a cinema for several years.It’s imperative one council does not undermine the financial arrangements of another.”