Linear Park plans: Town councillors tell residents "This isn't a district council, it's a dictatorship"

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Following an electors meeting to object to plans for the Sunken Gardens to be regenerated — councillors have, again, criticised the handling of consultation by Arun Distrcit Council

READ MORE: Linear Park plans: Lack of public consultation 'deeply disappointing'

Members of the public and councillors attended the meeting at the Jeneses Centre on Wednesday to object to plans for a Linear Park at the Sunken Gardens set to cost £3.5 million.

The meeting was attended by 64 people, who voted in favour of the motions proposed by the town council. 50 voted for, and there were only two abstentions.

Bognor Regis Town councillor Jan Cosgrove, Lib Dem, said: "This meeting has shown the strength of feeling and unity of Bognor people around this issue, and indeed the related wider issues around Regeneration. We will not stop here, this was the start of a campaign to make Arun Councillors listen."

READ MORE: Town councillors calls for Linear Park plans to be abandoned

Controversy has surrounded the plans after members of the public said they felt they were being ignored by the town council in favour of the district council.

Since then, town councillors have upped the ante in the debate with many calling for the plans to be scrapped.

Cllr Matt Stanley, Lib Dem, sits as a town councillor and a district councillor. He said: "We had a huge turn out at a Bognor Regis Town Council meeting which called for our council to unite. I have been talking about the Linear Park for almost 12 months and the community, loud and clear, called for the town council to express their views and make their voices heard. That is what we are doing today.

"Unfortunately none of the district councillors have taken the opportunity to come and speak to you, but I have to add this isn’t the first occasion this has happened — around June we held a meeting based on feedback, calling for more consultation in with planning applications.

READ MORE: Councillors who support demolition of Sunken Gardens will pay 'heaviest price'

"85 people turned up that day and we had no conservative district councillors turned up that day. The town council requested a meeting with district councillors from Arun to talk about plans, no-one came. We asked officers to come to the town council and nobody came either."

Cllr Cosgrove added: "It's very clear that this is a hot issue. I want us to step back a bit and remind those who don't remember, about the whole Hothampton site. That was for many years a cultural leisure amenity area.

"When Arun first took that area there was a meeting like this. And we told them we didn't want them to take the car park.

Arun ignored us. Now they want to take another third of the leisure space. I'm concerned that we as a community have lost precious community space. They have also told us that on the car park area they going to build flats, 95 flats.

I'm afraid that does not amount to regeneration. This business has got to stop, the Sunken Gardens are mentioned in the neighbourhood plan as an outstanding feature and I do not believe that Arun, in making this decision has paid any attention to us.

Arun has admitted clearly two or three year ago the purpose of the flats was not regeneration it was to create income for the district council.

"If we realise what's going on — we are being taken for mugs."

Cllr Stanley added: "Arun quite simply are not listening and are refusing to listen.

READ MORE: Councillor steps up fight to save Bognor’s Sunken Gardens

"What could you do with £3.5m in this town? We have homeless people on the street I walk past them everyday in the town centre. "There’s anti-social behaviour and policing but we’re going to spend £3.5m on a park that clearly nobody wants.

"This isn’t a district council, it’s a dictatorship.”

Arun District Council has been approached for comment.

READ MORE: Community event to take place in Sunken Gardens

The motion was to vote on the following:

Opposes the plans by Arun District Council to construct a Linear Park at Hothamton, whose cost has been estimated by Arun at £3.5 million

Reminds Arun and BR Town Councils that the BR Neighbourhood Plan contains specific reference to the current Sunken Gardens (The Area is listed in Policy 9, no 2, of the BR Neighbourhood Plan adopted 2015 designated as local green space - page 58 'Sunken Gardens A key landscape in the Conservation Area typical of nineteenth century squares visually important for historic as well as amenity reasons and highly valued by the community') so that the current area should be maintained and that there should be no loss of amenity space.

Calls on Arun District Council to abandon the current scheme and instead to allocate substantial funding to the improvement and upgrade of the current Gardens, which can be achieved for a very substantial lower sum, to include features wanted by the Community and on-going involvement by the Community Gardeners Group, BRTC Town Force etc, and a long-overdue statue of the Town's Founder, Sir Richard Hotham