AN AGREEMENT to start exclusive talks about building student flats on a Bognor Regis parking site has been criticised as shortsighted.
Arun District Council’s cabinet agreed in private on Monday to start a lock-out agreement with the University of Chichester until next May about the future of the London Road coach and lorry park.
This will enable initial talks to build accommodation for students on part of the site to be progressed.
But Bognor Regis Civic Society said losing the parking spaces would be a serious blow to hopes of regenerating the town. Deputy chairman Hugh Coster said full consideration needed to be given into how Bognor Regis would cope with the increased visitors if ambitious plans to transform sites in the town centre went ahead.
“This coach park is just the thin end of the wedge,” he said, “because practically all regeneration ideas, including Arun’s, involve building on the town’s car parks and drastically reducing available public spaces.”
The society – with Bognor Regis Chamber of Commerce and Bognor Regis Town Council – wanted an updated car parking strategy to be compiled to guide the future use of the town’s parking locations, he said.
“Arun is blindly stumbling in the dark without a parking strategy and we are calling on them to positively work together with the town’s representative groups, such as ourselves, to create a coherent strategy for the future.
“This will inform how regeneration can be carried out that will be of true benefit, but it is vital that the parking strategy comes first. No regeneration decisions should be made until this has been established and agreed.”
Arun agreed several years ago to enable a section of the lorry park to be used for parking for the university’s students and staff to easily walk to the campus on the opposite side of Upper Bognor Road.
The latest talks are an extension of that relationship. Arun’s cabinet members also agreed to continuing negotiations between the council and the university on the draft terms of the agreement for student flats but excluding the level of rent to be paid for the use of the land.
A council spokesman said: “Delegated authority was given to the resources director and deputy chief executive, or the most senior officer on property matters, to conclude the negotiations for a lease in consultation with the cabinet member for corporate governance.”
However, the civic society said the decision just proved the outdated nature of Arun’s most recent car parking report for Bognor Regis – written in 2013.
“This report is not a strategy for the future plus it knows nothing about the latest proposals and fails to recognise the huge success of the current two hour free parking scheme in attracting increased footfall to the town.
“This, in itself, suggests that parking should be increased rather than reduced,” Mr Coster said.
Yet the Sir Richard Hotham Project regeneration proposals would result in 177 public parking spaces being cut, he claimed. He added: “Other ideas involve turning the town’s roads into car parks, which is equally unacceptable.
“And, if we wish to bring in lots more visitors and businesses to new and vibrant town attractions, we have to think very carefully about how they get here and where they will park.
“If we don’t do this, they simply won’t come and all our efforts will be wasted.”
The London Road car park has 98 pay and display bays, six disabled bays and one motorcycle bay. It is classed as a long stay car park and is open 8am-6pm daily.