AN IMPASSIONED plea to save Bognor Regis from dying failed to persuade councillors to back an £80m regeneration scheme.
Alison Sheppey, of The Steyne, told town council members the Sir Richard Hotham Project’s latest initiative for two key sites in the town was essential to breathe new life into it. “The town is on its knees. It was the most abysmal summer I have known.
“I have been in Bognor Regis for 14 years and seen a lot of things bandied around and spoken to a lot of local people who moved here because they think it’s a fantastic town.
“But why are heels being dragged over this? Why can’t an £80m privately invested scheme with huge economic benefits be pushed forward?
“There is nowhere to drink and nothing to do here. People from Butlin’s don’t go further than the pier.
“We need to have something done and, if it’s privately funded, that’s better than doing absolutely nothing,” she told the town council’s planning and licensing committee on Tuesday.
Another Bognor Regis resident, Gary Smith, also backed the project for the Regis Centre, Hothamton and former Esplanade Theatre sites. He said: “The Sir Richard Hotham Project to me is absolutely the best scheme we could have.
“It’s been borne out of local business people. They have pulled it together and looked at how regeneration can be sustained and raise the profile of the area and bring benefits to it.
“This was shown with the link to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which had helped other towns with its programme of workshops.
“Why aren’t the town council, given this opportunity, backing the scheme? I think this proposal is the only credible scheme we can get for Bognor Regis,” he said. “Backing it is a no brainer for me.”
But the committee decided by 2-1, with two abstentions, to object to the plans. Its members said too few changes had been made to overcome its objections to the initial scheme last year.
Among the matters still felt to be unresolved were the demolition of the Alexandra Theatre within the Regis Centre, the lack of a step-free access to the foreshore and parking provision.
These objections were different to Arun District Council’s reasons when it refused planning permission last March.
Town council committee member Cllr Sandra Daniells said improvements had been made compared to the first plans. “More leisure provision has been added to the Regis Centre site, which is one of the things we asked for.
“The amount of affordable housing has increased but the demolition of the theatre has not changed. But parking, of course, is the biggest issue,” she said. “It has been addressed but I still have concerns about how it’s going to work.
“It’s a big and complex scheme and we can’t cherrypick the parts we like.”
Cllr Pat Dillon, who abstained, said: “I’ve no problem with the design. I’ve always said that.” but he said he was still unhappy with other aspects of the scheme.
Earlier, the project’s managing director, Thomas Elliott, said: “We want to spread regeneration around the town and create footfall between the sites to get people spending in Queensway, High Street and The Arcade which they are not doing at the moment.”
Parking will benefit from an extra 165 spaces for the users of the 6,358sq m of commercial and leisure space on the Regis Centre site, 64-room hotel, 192 flats and a new boardwalk. The Hothamton site would house a 1,100 seat theatre, 48-bed hotel and two shops with a 200 cover restaurant on the former theatre site.