VOTE: Are you confident that Swansea Gardens has a future?

Swansea Gardens 1
Swansea Gardens 1

BOWLERS are likely to be enjoying a reprieved Bognor Regis sports site for years to come.

BOWLERS are likely to be enjoying a reprieved Bognor Regis sports site for years to come.

The future for Swansea Gardens looks much brighter after a dramatic intervention by Arun District Council’s leader in a debate about its proposed sell-off.

Some two-and-a-half hours into the meeting, Cllr Gillian Brown said the much-loved area should stay open until all other possible sources of funding for improvements elsewhere in the town had been considered.

Cllr Brown (Con, Aldwick East) said: “Before we start thinking about selling off Swansea Gardens, we need to investigate how else we can raise the money.

“We need to investigate offering a long lease for the concession at Waterloo Square as the first thing to see if we fund the provision of a new clubhouse and cafe through private finance.

“We should do exactly the same with West Park. We need to preserve what green spaces we have. We need places like that.

“If we find private funding for a clubhouse on Waterloo Square and a cafe in West Park, and that is taken out of the equation, the amount which is needed for the other work is much smaller.

“We need to do that before we take a decision on Swansea Gardens.”

Formal motion

Her suggestion at last Thursday’s meeting of Arun District Council’s leisure, tourism and infrastructure working group was quickly turned into a formal motion by its members.

This stated options for funding for West Park and Waterloo Square should be investigated and the proposal to sell the council-owned Swansea Gardens should not be pursued at this stage.

It was quickly amended to ensure bowls clubs which use Waterloo Square and Swansea Gardens would be fully consulted about any changes.

The decision was made unanimously by the nine working party members present.

The recommendation will go to the council’s cabinet, chaired by Cllr Mrs Brown, on February 11 and the full council on March 20.

Site could raise £2m

About 150 people, most of them bowlers from Bognor, attended the meeting. Some wore ‘Save Swansea Gardens For Leisure’ sashes in yellow and black.

They listened as the council’s leisure consultant David Geddes, of Colliers International, spoke about his findings.

He estimated selling Swansea Gardens with its two bowling greens and three tennis courts for flats could raise £2m.

He insisted it had to be done to pay for improvements along the seafront, a better clubhouse and cafe building at Waterloo Square and improved facilities at West Park.

“There can’t be a single person in this room who likes the idea of selling Swansea Gardens

“It’s a nice little place and the people who use it unquestionably get tremendous enjoyment and benefit out of it,” he said.

“But, at the end of the day, the number of people who are getting that benefit is very small compared to the number of people who would get the benefit if you are able to get enough money to improve the seafront.

“Improvements of this order could benefit every single person who lives in Bognor and the surrounding area and a lot of people who visit there.

“A considerable number of jobs could be created.

“Selling Swansea Gardens is not a nice thing to do.

“You have to decide whether the benefit you get is worth the sacrifice you have to make.”

What do you think? Have your say in the voting panel to the right, and leave your comments below.