Bognor Regis must ‘reinvent’ itself says future of seaside towns report

Bognor pier. Picture by Allan Hutchins
Bognor pier. Picture by Allan Hutchins

Arun District Council has pledged to ‘transform and regenerate’ Bognor Regis in light of a new House of Lords report which encouraged seaside towns to be ‘inspired to reinvent themselves’.

According to the report by the House of Lords select committee, named The future of seaside towns, many seaside towns and coastal communities are in ‘desperate need of improvements’ to transport, housing and broadband. It also said that better access to further and higher education for young people in seaside towns is needed.

The district council, which it said contributed to the study, said Bognor ‘experiences many of the issues’ described in the report and is ‘already taking forward’ many of its conclusions for the benefit of the town.

A spokesman added: “Bognor Regis experiences many of the issues described in the report and typical of seaside towns. The council fully supports the report conclusions and is already taking forward many of them to transform and regenerate Bognor Regis.

“The recent investments in the town centre public realm have been a catalyst for further investment and improvement, most particularly the refurbishment of the town station.

“The soon to open new Creative Digital Hub and shared workspace will support the local creative sector and help nurture entrepreneurial business activity in the town.”

The spokesman also cited the council’s ‘ambitious’ Gardens by the Sea proposal, which will ‘transform the seafront’.

“[It will] create a new all year / all-weather attraction for the town and new urban park that the whole community and visitors can enjoy,” it said.

“The council recognises the need to make better use of Bognor Regis town centre and encourage different uses, other than traditional retail. The council’s recent application to the Future High Streets Fund sets out how the town centre could be transformed and create a mixed use environment that is the beating heart of the community and offers an experience beyond just shopping.”

Bognor Regis Town Council said it ‘has not yet had the opportunity to formally consider’ the report. A spokesman said: “This will be noted at the annual meeting of the town council in May.

“Following the forthcoming elections, during the first year of the new administration, a review of the town council’s corporate strategy will be carried out and members will be able to use this recent report to influence the town council’s future plans and aspirations if they so wish.”

The chairman of the committee, which formed the report, Lord Bassam of Brighton, said seaside towns have been ‘neglected for too long’.

He added: “They suffer from issues rooted in the decline of their core industries, most notably domestic tourism, but also in fishing, shipbuilding and port activity, and from their location at the ‘end of the line’.

“The potential impact of Brexit on these towns, particularly the hospitality sector, also remains an open question.

“A single solution to their economic and social challenges doesn’t exist. What is needed is a package of strategic initiatives and interventions where national and local government work together to address issues such as transport, housing, post-school education and high-speed broadband.”

Lord Bassam said places like Brighton and Bournemouth have ‘shown that the seaside can successfully reinvent itself’.

“The Committee is confident that if our recommendations are pursued seaside towns can once again become prosperous and desirable places to live in and visit,” he said.

See the main findings and conclusions from the report here