Regeneration meeting to be held soon is criticised

A LONG-AWAITED meeting about regeneration plans for Bognor Regis has been announced.

Arun District Council is to hold the event about the £40m proposals from St Modwen in less than two weeks.

But the arrangements for the session have been immediately criticised by the town’s civic society.

Attendance is limited and is by invitation only. Questions also have to be submitted in writing in advance.

Civic society deputy chairman Hugh Coster said: “This is not the open public meeting we were promised.

“Arun are stage managing the event. They can choose who attends the meeting and they can then choose which questions are answered.

“There are also only going to be 150 people when there are bigger venues which could have been used.

“There’s no chance for an open debate about the important issues which are at stake.

“The civic society’s meetings can be attended by anyone and they can ask the questions they like.

“If we ran our meetings in any other way, we would soon be criticised by the council.”

The regeneration question time will take place at 6pm on February 12 at the Bognor campus of the University of Chichester. Arun leader Cllr Gillian Brown will chair the meeting in the John Parry Centre.

Sitting on the panel will be the council’s chief executive, Nigel Lynn, St Modwen regional director Tim Seddon and Clive Behagg, the vice-chancellor of the university.

Representatives of West Sussex County Council will also be present.

Public demand for tickets for the 90 minute event is expected to be high.

An email registration scheme - or 01903 737844 - has been set up for people to express an interest in attending. Questions must be submitted by February 8. Those who are successful will be notified.

Cllr Mrs Brown said: “We will strive to ensure the audience and questions on the night are representative of all the views we have received but, rest assured, we will not be dodging any difficult questions.

“This is another opportunity for us to answer some of the most common questions we heard during the St Modwen consultations we held before Christmas and to answer any questions people have on wider regeneration issues for the town.

“I still believe the draft proposals give Bognor a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the town centre, create hundreds of new jobs and attract private sector investment that will run into tens of millions of pounds.”

The council had received positive and negative comments, she said.

The subject of the meeting will be the St Modwen scheme for the Regis Centre and Hothamton sites.

The company is proposing a miniplex cinema as the focal point of a leisure and entertainment hub on the Regis Centre site.

A cluster of bars, cafes and restaurants is also proposed along with an hotel and flats. The Alexandra Theatre within the centre will be extended by about 100 seats with the proceeds from the development.

For Hothamton, some 200 flats have been suggested along with the prospect of a store.