Shops need to smarten up, says town manager

SCRUFFY town-centre businesses in Bognor Regis will be forced to smarten up.

New town centre manager Toyubur Rehman said one of the easiest ways to boost the key retailing area was to improve its appearance.

“I walked down the High Street last week,” he told the town’s civic society, “and just about every 
single shopfront needed some work doing – either windows cleaned or 
the shopfronts painted, to more serious issues like windows, guttering and roofs.

“I will be asking all the businesses and retailers to improve the fabric of their buildings.

“I will go down the enforcement route. If I’ve had education and engagement, at some point there has to be enforcement to raise the standard.”

Mr Rahman made his first public appearance at last Friday’s meeting of the group.

He also turned his criticisms to 
BT and said he was determined to 
get the town centre’s telephone kiosks removed.

“They are used as urinals and sleeping shelters and advertising boards and are so expensive no-one uses them for calls any more.

“I will be telling BT to take them away and, if they don’t, I’ll get 
my angle grinder out and cut them down,” he said.

Mr Rahman began work six weeks ago and outlined his vision of a town centre able to compete with the internet and out-of-town retail parks.

That was by offering a different attraction to shoppers by creating a safe and secure area which was easy to reach and welcomed them with a range of activities.

“At the moment, if I put on a postcard that Bognor was a clean, welcoming and safe town 
centre I would be sued for false advertising. I don’t feel that at the moment,” he said.

The town’s biggest asset was its seafront and natural beauty, which had to link with the town centre, and its biggest weakness was its road and rail links. There was also a lack of central leisure facilities.

Mr Rahman is employed by the University of Chichester and reports to a board which includes the university as well as Butlin’s and Arun and Bognor councils.

He has decades of experience managing and advising town centres. He was urged by civic society 
deputy chairman Hugh Coster to work with its some 250 members and 1,000 supporters.

“We fully support all your aspirations. But there has not been enough engagement with residents so far which has caused conflict.

“The way round that is to have a proper partnership. We all need to work together,” he said.

Roger Thomas, a member of the society, told Mr Rahman a lot of anger centred around the regeneration plans for the Regis Centre site.

He said: “What the people of Bognor want is what you have just outlined. Unfortunately, Arun District Council are trying to give us what they want and not what we want.

“They are trying to make the town no longer a seaside resort, but about people who live in flats.”