‘Swathe of improvements’

THE ONE thing on which ADC and the people of Bognor probably agree is a wish that the Swansea Gardens problem would go away, though of course for very different reasons.

Colliers is still promoting the sale of the gardens for residential development to pay for what they describe as ‘a swathe of improvements across the seafront’.

This view was incorporated in three papers provided for the meeting on January 17, including a second draft strategy, written by Colliers.

Colliers includes a section titled ‘Bognor Regis Seafront Enhancement’, under which West Park would get a new café, an enhanced play area, and a path and new entrance, Waterloo Square would get a new clubhouse and café, and a splash play park and sand play area would be created somewhere on the promenade.

This would cost the attractively round figure of £1m, out of a proposed total expenditure of £2,595,000.

The remaining £1,595,000 would go towards ‘upgrading seafront catering concessions, improving the promenade furniture and signage, adding art and other features’.

Proceeds from the sale of Swansea Gardens (now reduced from £2.6m to £2.395m) would be used ‘to match grant funding applications from other sources and to leverage investment from the private sector’.

Does that mean the money from the sale of Swansea Gardens would in some way guarantee the viability of applications for grant funding and private investment in the overall strategy?

Does the sale of Swansea Gardens thus underpin the whole strategy, and is that why it is still in the second draft?

The public consultation showed that, while there was a large majority in favour of seafront enhancement (to a greater or lesser extent), when people were asked if Swansea Gardens should be sold to fund the enhancements, the votes were split equally between those for, against, and undecided.

The ‘swathe of improvements’ includes the following:

n New clubhouse for bowlers – Unless the new clubhouse is to be built on the sunken garden and crazy-golf at the south end of Waterloo Square, then it must be built on existing greens.

n New tennis courts in West Park – Unnecessary unless the courts in Swansea Gardens have such major defects that demolition is the only option.

n Replacement café at West Park; new café at the south end of the Waterloo Square greens; new seafront restaurants – If it is considered essential for ADC to subsidise commercial outlets, why are they included in the strategy?

n New toilet in West Park – It was recently announced this is now to be funded jointly by Aldwick and Arun councils, which presumably means it will be deleted from the strategy.

n Upkeep of seafront seating – Should this not be an ongoing annual works programme, rather than part of a one-off project?

n Seafront signs – Long overdue for attractions like the Swansea Gardens bowling greens and tennis courts, but their provision should not be used to justify demolishing those very attractions which they are designed to promote.

To our dedicated, hard-working district councillors, who in due course will be seeking our support for their re-election.

Do not be tempted to sit on the fence, which could be so easily misinterpreted by voters as indifference or actually favouring the destruction or there would be a permanent reminder of what might have been, and would ensure this public displeasure extended well beyond the next local elections.

Developers would walk away with the profit, leaving councillors to shoulder the blame!

Alan Mowat

St Winifred’s Close

Bognor Regis