Unofficial enterprise zone for Bognor Regis could be on cards

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Pledges have been made to create an unofficial enterprise zone for Bognor Regis.

Councillors and business leaders are determined to shrug off the government’s rejection of their bid for the job-boosting zone.

They will press on with those elements of zone status, like simplified planning rules, which they can put into effect anyway. Arun District Council senior officer Jaqui Ball said: “We are committed to the process started in the Enterprise@Bognor Regis bid. Such a lot of work went into it, we don’t want to lose it.

“It’s really important for the public in Bognor to see the council remains strongly committed and it’s not a case of ‘Oh dear, what a pity’.”

The council’s regeneration subcommittee on Tuesday backed the intention to continue with the enterprise zone work and to seek other ideas to boost the town.

Subcommittee chairman Cllr Norman Dingemans said: “We can push on with all the ambitions in the bid. It will just take us a bit longer to do it.

“The Coast2Capital local enterprise partnership will support us going ahead and, with that support, we can make things happen.”

Council leader Gillian Brown said: “The rejection was hugely disappointing but we have agreed with the town’s regeneration board to carry on as if we have got enterprise zone status.”

Cllr Ricky Bower said: “It’s a real regret we missed out on an enterprise zone but that was only the first round of bidding. We should commit ourselves to pursuing a fresh bid if there is another round of applications.

“We should keep plugging away at this and bring about as much of the enterprise zone status as we possibly can.”

The Enterprise@Bognor Regis proposals were snubbed by the government when it announced 11 new zones last week.

The initiative would have seen 175 hectares included in the zone. Of that, 80ha of undeveloped land would have been the short-term focus with the potential to create 5,000-8,000 jobs. A further 5,000-6,000 were expected to be created in the longer term.

The main features of the zone were set to have been an advanced manufacturing park on Oldlands Farm on the A29 and an adjoining Knowledge Park of mainly offices.

Additional aspects included a campus of small business and studio units on the former Lec airfield, a university hub with business units, a leisure park development as part of Butlins and a retail and leisure hub to complement the new Sainsbury’s.

Companies in the private sector have vowed to put aside the enterprise zone failure. David Myers, the secretary of Bognor Regis Ltd, said its business members were committed to achieving the key improvements in jobs and skill level identified in the zone bid.

“However, it has to be recognised that, without the financial incentives available with enterprise zone status, it will take longer for the additional businesses and jobs to be achieved,” he said.

Bognor Regis 21 community group chairman Roger Nash said everyone had to pull together to overcome the blow of the rejection.

“What we need to do now is to develop, albeit at a slower pace, the evidence, research and planning which went into the bid to bring about some of the outcomes which would attract new businesses.”