Packed meeting in call for Swansea Gardens site to be saved

SAVE Swansea Gardens was the demand from a packed meeting in Bognor Regis.

The call to keep the tennis courts and bowling greens safe from housing came through loud and clear at the get-together of protesters.

Some 250 people filled the Jeneses Arts Centre, formerly the United Reformed Church. And they got across their message forcibly and repeatedly throughout 90 minutes.

Repeated criticism was also made about the lack of a representative of Arun District Council at the meeting.

Pagham Bowling Club chairman Peter Quilter said squeezing the bowls players who used Swansea Gardens on to the surviving greens at Waterloo Square would fail.

“There will be at least 40 occasions when matches will clash, using between eight and 12 rinks and they will involve 60-90 players putting a great strain on the greens, car parking, catering and changing facilities,” he said.

Nearby resident Alan Mowat said he was assured 40 years ago when he bought his house in St Winifred’s Close the Swansea Gardens leisure site would never close because it was owned by the council. “In those days, council ownership was a safeguard,” he said. “I’m afraid that, in these days, it’s more of a threat.

“This is an occasion when Bognor residents do know what’s best for their town. Arun should choose sport over housing.”

Speaker after speaker spoke about the effect of the closure going ahead if Arun agreed to the suggestion by its consultants, Colliers International.

Derek Levy, a committee member of Pagham Bowling Club, said losing the car-parking spaces at Swansea Gardens would make it very difficult for those players who transfered to Waterloo Square to park in an area with a limited number of spaces.

The nearest public car park was Hothamton in Queensway, which could disappear in the town’s regeneration proposals.

“We urgently request Arun, when deliberating Colliers’ recommendations take serious note of the many consequences, including car parking, arising from the closure of Swansea Gardens,” he said.

The threat to its six bowling greens and three public tennis courts has arisen from the draft leisure and culture strategy produced by Colliers for the district council.

The wide-ranging report has prompted so many responses – nearly 3,000 – Arun has been forced to delay a final decision on the matter until next March.

Colliers said the £2.5m from the sale of Swansea Gardens for housing should be used to improve Bognor seafront, including a new cafe and clubhouse at Waterloo Square, and West Park.