VOTE: Do you think the former eaterie at The Steyne in Bognor Regis should be converted to flats?

A former restaurant in a Bognor Regis conservation area has been given the go-ahead to be turned into flats.

At a meeting of Arun District Council’s development control committee, members ignored pleas to retain the character of the area.

The committee agreed to allow the trading area of 1 The Steyne, to be converted into two studio flats. Bognor Regis town councillor Jeanette Warr attended the meeting to plead with members to save the building of character.

She said: “Bognor Regis Town Council object to this application on the grounds this is out of character with the conservation area. Due to its prominent position on the seafront, the ground floor should remain as a bar or restaurant.

“The town council regrets the possible loss of this building as an amenity for tourists. These premises are in the heart of the town and should be retained as a tourism facility to maintain the heritage of the town as a friendly seaside resort.

“To lose this business would go against current policy for the regeneration of Bognor Regis.”

Council planning officer Juan Baeza told members the building had been vacant for a significant period of time and any changes would not damage the conservation area. He also reminded members there was no government policy to back up reasons for a refusal of the application.

He said: “It is not considered the character of the conservation area will be harmed in any way. The outside of the building will largely remain the same.

“The only external difference would be the replacement of some rather poor-looking doors with wrought-iron gates which would in fact be an enhancement.”

Committee member Philippa Bower said she sympathised with the town council’s view.

“It is in a prime location within Bognor Regis. Once it is lost it will never be turned back into a restaurant or bar.

“Seaside holidays are getting more and more popular which could help someone wanting to make a go of it as a business.”

Cllr Ann Smee said: “In today’s economic climate this building is not going to be sold, someone is not going to want to take it on. And if it remains empty over this winter, irreversible damage could be caused to it.”

The committee voted 12 in favour of approval, with two against and one abstention.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Mrs Warr expressed her regret at the decision. “I am so disappointed the application has been approved, allowing something which could have been used by tourists to bring money into the town. Yes, we are in a recession at the moment which is probably why the business did not survive. But sooner or later we will come out of the recession.”