PROTESTS failed to stop a £3.53m new park for Bognor Regis being backed.
The overwhelming support for the Hothamton linear park from the Conservative-run Arun District Council came despite strong opposition from its Liberal Democrat members.
The approval at Wednesday night’s full meeting of the council means work will go ahead on a planning application for the town centre site of just under a hectare between Queensway and West Street. Cllr Phil Hitchins (C, Aldwick W), who chairs the council’s Bognor Regis regeneration sub-committee, said: “There has been a huge amount of work put into this and we are only at stage one and that’s agreeing the principle of the linear park.
“I always knew we could not please all of the people all of the time but, if we did that, we would end up with nothing.
“This is a brilliant scheme and it is unique to Bognor Regis. We should stop talking and get on with it. The people of Bognor Regis will be very proud of what will be delivered.”
Cllr Trevor Bence (C, Aldwick E) said: “For the last 30 years, that site has been looking rundown, it has been windswept and, of late, it has attracted all sorts of people who maybe we would like to move on. This scheme is what we need to get on with and improve the prospects of Bognor Regis.”
But Cllr Martin Smith, in his first comments at full council since his election for the Lib Dems in Aldwick W, said: “This is not what I would call regeneration.
“I think the plans are unsatisfactory. The whole scheme needs re-looking at and going back to the sub-committee and delivering what the town actually wants and not what is on the table.”
His fellow Lib Dem, Cllr Francis Oppler (LD, Orchard), said: “There are parts of this I find acceptable. But you are taking away green space, you are taking away parking and you are giving us back less of both.
“There will be 16 parking spaces less and 36 per cent less green space. Bearing in mind how much the council is cramming on to the site, that bothers me considerably.”
He said he was concerned about the safety of the proposed junction opposite Crescent Road and children using the park with vehicles parked alongside them.
Cllr Paul Wells (LD, Hotham) said: “The folk of Bognor Regis do not want that site full of flats and houses. I do feel this is all about profit and future income streams for this council.”
The nine recommendations backed by the councillors will see the park designed with a water feature, raised grass and planting areas, a natural play area and a central market square for a variety of uses.
Its initial plans also feature a pavilion/café, an acoustic shelter and electric car charging points for many of parking spaces.
On its western side will be 100 flats with retail space on the ground floor. This area might include the health centre if the NHS decides to move.
Arun director of place Karl Roberts has been given the authority to spend up to £300,000 on a planning application for the scheme and to appoint a project officer.
Minor changes can also be made without councillors’ approval.