A contentious demolition order for dilapidated buildings in Bognor Regis’ Waterloo Square should be delayed, town councillors have urged.
B5 Ltd has proposed the demolition of 2-4 Waterloo Square to Arun District Council last year, citing the poor and unsafe condition of the structure and submitted plans (BR/191/18/PL)
Its application has yet to be determined but the agent for the scheme HJ Concepts has repeatedly written to officers asking for a decision to be expedited.
However environmental health officers at the council have now served a demolition order, with a notice attached outside the site, after describing how the council is satisfied ‘the most satisfactory course of action in respect of the premises is the service of a demolition order’. Read more here.
'Stunned and very angry'
The decision did not go down well with town councillors at a planning and licensing committee last night (Tuesday), including Labour's Jan Cosgrove.
He said: "I am stunned and very angry a local authority has seen fit to interfere with that decision making process. I have never heard anything like it. It has never happened in Arun, as far as I know.
"I would want to know why such a decision was not made before. It seems all together wrong in every respect you can think of, that it wasn't done through the proper process of decision making.
"I have to say this is the most extraordinary situation we have encountered. I have never come across anything like this in the years I have been associated in the Bognor area."
Expressing his desire to 'push the district council for an internal inquiry', councillor Cosgrove added: "They cannot just be allowed to pass it [the order] without some further action.
"We should have a clear explanation from Arun as to why it took so long for them to make a decision when the planning application had been made. What on earth possessed the owner of the building to neglect it to such an extent, that they now have to order its demolition?"
'Shocked' Lib Dem councillor Matt Stanley said he has 'grave concerns' about the process being 'taken out of the hands of democratically elected councillors'.
He added: "I think everyone was quite shocked at the decision to serve a demolition order on the building. There was no way for the community to have any say on the building, to support or object.
"I have still not seen any proof that the building is any imminent danger of collapse. Arun have a duty to preserve these buildings and unless they can provide proof that there is imminent danger, I think they need to explore every avenue to preserve the building and as of yet, they still haven't."
Conservative Councillor Pat Dillon said there are a lot of things in the building that are 'rotten and need replacing' but stressed that it is not an unsafe structure. He added: "As far as I'm concerned, there was nothing in there that couldn't be taken out and replaced."
There was also shared confusion about the ownership of the building, with Lib Dem councillor and chairman Jeanette Warr claiming that the landowners told her that the building didn't belong to them.
Independent councillor Steve Goodheart said the 'outcome is disappointing' and asked if there was a possibility of objecting to the order.
'Can we push for a postponement?'
In response, councillor Stanley suggested the committee instead 'request a postponement for the demolition until we see evidence that the building is in danger of collapse'.
Councillor Cosgrove agreed. He said: "We'll know where we are when we find out who has ownership of the building but it doesn't just suddenly become a dangerous building, the concern would have pre-existed for ages before the application.
"I want us to request, on behalf of the committee, to the senior environmental officer for Arun, a postponement or delay in the demolition order."
The town council clerk said the decision has been made and the only person who can appeal it is the applicant.
Councillor Dillon clarified: "We cannot push for a postponement, but we can write to the district council to ask or express our feelings and wish to know who actually owns the building."
"There is no clear answer [to who owns it] but I am going to be perusing it to find out what it is that they [B5 Ltd] actually own and who is responsible."
Despite not being able to formally record it as a motion, the clerk said she would submit a letter to the district council for its consideration.