Demolition of ‘historic’ buildings in Bognor Regis is being pushed through due to squatters using the site, according to a campaign group.
A decision on the planning application has yet to be made, but environmental health officers at the council served a demolition order in January with a notice attached outside the site.
SAVE Britain’s Heritage, a conservation charity which fights for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses, has opposed the demolition notice.
David Cooper, the solicitor acting for SAVE, said: “The demolition notice should not have been served. It has been served under the Housing Act not because the building is structurally dangerous but because it has had squatters and the local authority say that it cannot reasonably prevent the squatters from going in the building again. This is not in my view a good reason for serving a demolition notice on the tenant.
“I also do not accept that if the notice turns out to be bad, that the building can be knocked down in a conservation area without listed building consent. The council own the freehold and it is doubly important therefore that all avenues are explored before the building is demolished.”
The group has written to the chief executive of Arun and offered to independent structural surveyors at its own cost to assess the structural stability of the building.
SAVE also wants to know why the building owners cannot manage to keep their own building secure.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE, added: “Given the council’s role as site owner and decision maker, it’s extremely important that proper procedures are followed – and that everyone can see how the decision is made.
“We have offered to send our own engineers to examine the building - and urge Arun district to step back from trashing their own heritage.”
In response a council spokesman said: “Arun District Council believes that the order has been served correctly and is currently being actioned by the persons it was served on.”
The demolition notice has been strongly opposed by several town councillors including Labour’s Jan Cosgrove and Lib Dem Matt Stanley.
Cllr Stanley, who is also a district councillor, said: “I am deeply concerned with the stance Arun District Council has taken regarding 2-4 Waterloo Square. These buildings are in a conservation area and are on the district council’s own register of buildings with special character. Arun District Council has a duty to preserve these buildings for our future generations. My fear is this decision is one born out of cost and convenience.
“This decision to serve a demolition order has undoubtedly been rushed. There so many unanswered questions and heritage angles that have yet to be explored.”