A REFERENDUM on regeneration in Bognor Regis has been demanded by councillors and residents.
Cllr Paul Wells said the need for people to have their say about the proposals was greater than ever with the withdrawal of St Modwen from the scheme the ideal time to go out to the public.
Councillors were last night due to approve scrapping the development agreement with St Modwen for the Regis Centre and Hothamton sites and spending £500,000 compiling their own scheme.
This will contain the same elements as those included by St Modwen.
“This has got to be the biggest scandal in the history of Arun,” said Cllr Wells (LD, Aldwick E).
“Incredibly, they were putting forward to last night’s meeting that they want to spend half a million pounds on a new scheme.
“That will be to push forward the scheme which St Modwen have walked away from. It’s madness beyond belief.
“The council now needs to look at going back out with a blank canvas and starting afresh.
“The market has changed since they started with St Modwen and there is a lot more emphasis on seaside resorts. “We need to take stock of everything that has gone on. We need to let the people decide.”
Cllr Francis Oppler (Orchard), the Lib Dem group leader on the district council, said: “Arun should go back out to consultation. People don’t want the multiplex and they don’t want the flats.
“They should consult with people first and then may be go to referendum and go back out to the market with its result because people are being ignored.”
Bognor Regis Civic Society deputy chairman Hugh Coster said: “Arun need to go back out to the public on how they can regenerate Bognor.
“Arun need to say why they are determined to do this when it’s not on behalf of the public.”
A report to last night’s (Wednesday, September 10) meeting by Karl Roberts, Arun’s assistant director of planning and regeneration, and chief executive Nigel Lynn stated the full council meeting next February would be asked to approve the initial plans and a period of consultation.
“The purpose of the meeting would be to seek agreement to undertake public consultation, which would commence immediately.
“The intention then would be to analyse the consultation responses and for the team to have regard to these in preparing the planning submissions,” their report said.
There will also be the chance for people to comment on any planning application submitted next year for the proposals. Mr Lynn said before the meeting: “We don’t believe now is the right time to go out to the public because we’ve had quite a few consultations so far.
“This scheme is not only about what the public don’t want to see. it’s about what the market will provide.
“We have already listened to the public. The number of flats on the Regis Centre site has gone down from 180 initially.”
The number of parking spaces had also been increased as a result of public comments, the report stated.
n AN URGENT letter was being delivered to Arun councillors from Bognor Regis Town Council yesterday.
The message urged the district council to use St Modwen’s decision to walk away as a reason to pause and begin ‘meaningful consultation’ to find out the views of residents about future plans for the sites with a deadline of next autumn after new councils have been elected.
This was agreed unanimously by the ten members present at the town council’s meeting on Monday.
The letter was proposed by Cllr Roger Nash (L, Pevensey). He said: “I feel a bit like the Grand Old Duke of York. We have been led up the hill and down the hill on this matter for the last seven or eight years.
“St Modwen have walked away from the scheme because it will not pay. For Arun to put forward exactly the same scheme, but with more flats, is ludicrous.
“We should be saying to Arun it’s now time to pause, time to reflect. Let’s have a proper, really meaningful consultation in the town as to what people do want.
“Arun are only rushing headlong into this because the elections are around the corner.”
He warned any successful scheme for the Regis Centre site might have to contain flats as well as an hotel, restaurants and better car parking to fund the improvements.
But Cllr Jim Brooks (I, Marine) said flats were not wanted on the site any more than a multiplex cinema. “I don’t want to see a single flat on that site. It’s not necessary. This is an opportunity for a blank canvas and a new start,” he said.
He said Arun had merely picked up St Modwen’s tired old scheme which had been degraded from the original proposals, adding: “It’s foolish for Arun to take a seven-year-old plan and carry on with it.”
Cllr Paul Wells (LD, Hotham) said: “Let’s take a blank canvas and re-start this project.
“Arun’s officers don’t get it. They don’t seem to be grasping what the people of Bognor actually want.
“The majority of this town do not want a multiplex. We have said no to a multiplex and we have got to say it again.
“Arun are being pretty foolish in their approach to this situation. They are hellbent on a multiplex. They are going ahead with a stagnant scheme St Modwen have walked away from and spending half a million pounds on it in drawing up a planning application.”
Cllr Bill Toovey (LD, Orchard) said: “My biggest fear is how do we get Arun to listen to what the people of Bognor want and we want.”