A ‘fight of a lifetime’ over regeneration plans proposed for Bognor Regis has been promised by one town councillor.
Back in July the Conservative controlled Arun District Council agreed in private session to dispose of its land next to the town hall so a new hotel can be built.
Councillors also supported changes to the leases for the Regis Centre as well as authorising officers to start work on a planning application for redevelopment of the site including a new theatre, winter gardens, multi-storey car park, flats, restaurants and potential reuse of the town hall.
Speaking at a Bognor Regis Town Council meeting on Monday night, Labour’s Jan Cosgrove raised doubts about Arun’s ability to deliver on proposed regeneration schemes for the town.
He said: “Potentially we are in a crunch period for this town’s future.”
He suggested they ‘gird ourselves up for the fight of a lifetime’, adding: “Consult the people of this town on what this town wants rather than what Arun thinks is good for us.”
Several councillors suggested Whitbread, who own Premier Inn and already have an interest in the site as the operators of Brewers Fayre, would be delivering the new hotel.
But a spokesman for Premier Inn said: “We’re keen to invest into Bognor Regis as we look to add more locations in Sussex and nationwide into our Premier Inn network. We have no concrete plans at this stage and are exploring a range of options.”
Independent Steve Goodheart was also critical of Arun’s approach and suggested the town council should produce its own masterplan.
He said: “We do not know what they [Arun] are doing. We are hearing this all on the rumour mill.”
Meanwhile Lib Dem Matt Stanley said all they had seen of the Gardens by the Sea concept for the Regis Centre and Hothamton sites was a ‘series of pretty pictures’.
He added: “All we are asking for is some consultation and some input into the future of our town in absolutely crucial locations and it’s been denied at every turn.”
In response a spokesman for Arun said: “The council’s plans to regenerate Bognor Regis were developed as a result of initial public consultation carried out extensively over six weeks in 2015.
“Hundreds of people took part and the results showed overwhelming support for transforming the Regis Centre and Hothamton sites in Bognor Regis into a space with restaurants and cafes, theatre and arts, and public spaces and gardens, including a water feature.
“In 2017, Arun District Council fully endorsed the proposals for a new landscaped park in the centre of town, incorporating around 200 flexible car parking spaces.
“Then, in October last year, work began to bring the new park off the drawing board and into reality.
“This work involved engaging a team of experienced consultants and designers, and a well-attended public consultation exercise was carried out at the Alexandra Theatre in the town.
“Arun District Council is now in the stage of procuring consultants to prepare a detailed design of how the park will look, ready for a planning application.
“During this stage, there will be more opportunities for feedback from the public.
“Throughout this process, the council has kept the public informed via press releases, social media, and public meetings, as well as the council magazine, the Arun Times.”
The council confirmed it was in negotiations regarding the potential sale of the land for a hotel.
The spokesman added: “Regarding the matter of the lease for the Regis Centre, if these negotiations are concluded to the satisfaction of all parties then the head lease will be surrendered and Arun District Council will take back responsibility for the building. This would involve a lease to Arun Arts being re-granted at the same time.”
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