SEVERE criticism has been made about the approval of the initial plans for a new park in Bognor Regis.
Councillors have been accused of backing pretty pictures without any facts with the decision about the £3.5m scheme.
As reported, the council convincingly supported the Hothamton linear park concept last week to replace the current car park and sunken garden between Queensway and West Street.
The idea is to create a natural play area, a water feature, central market square. a pavilion/cafe and some 200 parking spaces. But Hugh Coster, deputy chairman of Bognor Regis Civic Society, said more answers were needed before the scheme could be considered as being a satisfactory way to help the town’s regenerate.
No factual answers about the project were provided in the debate, which lasted 30 minutes, to the questions which were asked about the safety and viability of the scheme.
This meant councillors spent taxpayers’ money without knowing the full facts, he said.
“The consultants’ information provided no proper plan and no dimensions. Yet, the councillors seemed to be happy to sit there and swallow vague assertions that the proposals would provide more green space for the town.
“We have measured the space and the truth is that the town will lose up to 36 per cent of the existing green space and up to 76 much-needed car parking spaces. But they just looked at the pretty pictures and swallowed them hook, line and sinker.”
Mr Coster said town resident and retired experienced planning officer Henry Stamp had sent Arun’s members a 19-point document which detailed the scheme’s shortcomings.
This was not reflected in the debate. Only a small number of opposition councillors to the Conservative majority raised any questions, he said.
He repeated the claim, rebutted by Arun, that taking away the access road to the Fitzleet House flats would pose a risk to the residents’ safety.
“There are many other dangers in this scheme, notably to children, but almost no questions were asked and no questions given. The whole thing was just nodded through, with more than £3.5m of council taxpayers’ money to be spent to gain no benefit for the town at all,” he said. They also agreed the scheme did not need to come back to them before a planning application was submitted.
A district council spokeswoman said it believed the proposals would be another step towards the regeneration of the town.
“Following the recent decision by full council, we can now progress with the scheme to deliver a new contemporary urban park in Bognor Regis – something that few other councils have the ambition to achieve.
“Contrary to some reports that have criticised the scheme, the concept proposals provide up to 199 car parking spaces and a greater area of open space than currently exists.”
The area would also be versatile, with a trim trail, water play with fountains and lots of seating on a site needing to be significantly improved, she added.