Revamp of Bognor Regis theatre to bid for £12million government funding

Arun District Council will submit a bid to the government’s Levelling Up Fund in the hope of receiving £20m to pay for two projects.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 2:15 pm

If successful, the aim is to spend £7.3m improving Littlehampton’s seafront and riverside, with another £12.1m going towards a revamp of the Alexandra Theatre, in Bognor Regis

During a meeting of the economic committee on Tuesday (June 8) members authorised Karl Roberts, director of place, to finalise the bid documentation, which needs to be submitted by June 18.

Nick Gibb, MP for Bognor Regis & Littlehampton, has been asked to write a letter of support and Mr Roberts will also approach neighbouring MPs to do the same.

The Bognor Regis project includes:

• New front of house facilities at the theatre

• More seating and other internal improvements

• A new roof

• Exhibition space

• More meeting rooms

• New toilets, including a Changing Place toilet.

The Littlehampton project includes:

• A lighting scheme around the Oyster Pond

• New toilet facilities, including a Changing Place toilet

• External showers

• New concessions on Banjo Road

• Four play areas including water jets

• A redesign of West Green car park

• Improved public realm and extensive landscaping.

The aim of the Levelling Up Fund is to provide investment for infrastructure in towns and villages most in need – with coastal communities being one of the hot spots.

The first round of bidding focuses on three areas: regeneration, cultural investment and transport, with Arun’s bid covering the first two.

Being a bidding process, though, there are no guarantees that the council will be successful – in fact some councillors were sure it wouldn’t be.

Others suggested that the Bognor Regis part of the project should be put on hold for more work and a later bid.

But it was pointed out that the council would only get one bite of the cherry – if the Littlehampton bid was successful, it could not apply for more funding for Bognor.

Dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Beach) said: “Let’s go for this wholeheartedly. Let’s try our best to make sure that we get it and actually get something really happening for Bognor Regis and for Littlehampton.

“Twenty million pounds is a lot of money and we really do need to go full steam for it.”

Andy Cooper (Con, Angmering & Findon) said the idea of enhanced parking in Littlehampton was ‘a no brainer’ but he did have concerns about the proposed changes in Banjo Road and how this would affect coach parking.

Calling the plans for Bognor ‘a good enhancement’, he added: “I think it is just the tip of the iceberg for Bognor and everything else it will see in the next few years.”

Addressing the ‘nervousness’ shown by some towards the Bognor project, leader Shaun Gunner (Con, Rustington East) said: “It shows ambition on the part of the council that we want to be gaining public money in order to be getting people into our towns and show that we are investing and that the government, hopefully, is also investing in our towns as well.”

He added: “What we hope is that this will be the catalyst for further investment, both public and private, going forward and that’s something we should all be positive about.”

The council will find out in September or October whether its bid has been successful.

If it has, it will have to provide ten per cent of match funding and will have until March 31 2024 to spend the money.

When asked what would happen if the bid was unsuccessful, a spokesman said: “The council is committed to delivering projects to rejuvenate and improve public areas of both Littlehampton and Bognor Regis and we’re now making good progress and seeing both projects gathering pace.

“We are confident in our bid for the Levelling Up Fund, but if unsuccessful we will be seeking out other pools of funding and making a strong case as to why our towns would benefit from investment.”

Mr Gunner added: “Bognor Regis and Littlehampton have an awful lot of potential and the bids we have put in are to help both towns – and the entire Arun district – realise that potential.

“We believe that this £20m investment will realise a value of £190m. That will drive forward tourism, economic growth and jobs in our area.

“That’s a good thing and I hope residents in both towns can see that.

“I’m talking to Members of Parliament, the Greater Brighton Economic Board and others to make the case for this investment.

“And if we are unsuccessful, my passion for driving forward change is undiminished.”