CIVIC campaigners have drawn up a tape measure challenge about the size of a proposed park in Bognor Regis.
Bognor Regis Civic Society wants to stage a public event in which the dimensions of the intended Pavilion Park would be shown. But the idea has provoked a war of words.
The park has been put forward by Arun District Council for the Hothamton car park, play area and Sunken Garden site as a key element of its regeneration vision for the town.
But claims about the replacement green space’s size have dogged the scheme since it was announced.
Hugh Coster, the civic society’s deputy chairman, said it was time to put the dispute to the test.
“The truth is that the green space and play area will be slashed by 26 per cent, plus we will lose car parking spaces and scores of mature trees and shrubs. Yet, Cllr Hitchins continues to peddle the falsehood that there will be more space.
“We are inviting Cllr Hitchins to meet at the Sunken Garden at the date/time of his choice and we will jointly measure the site with a long tape in the full gaze of the public and the press,” he said.
“And, just to add spice, I will personally wager £100 that we are right, if he will do likewise.
“Frankly, I don’t believe he has the courage to do this, which is why I am now challenging him to put his money where his mouth is.”
The society would give maximum publicity to the challenge to ensure the result was widely known, said Mr Coster. “The public deserve to know the truth and that is what will emerge,” he said.
But Cllr Hitchins (C, Aldwick W), chairman of Arun’s regeneration committee, rejected the challenge.
He said: “I take the regeneration of Bognor Regis very seriously. It is not a laughing matter and should not be something that others bring down to gutter level.
“I do not interact with politically biased groups who are anti-progress, anti-Arun and anti-Conservative councillors and want Bognor Regis to fail, neither do I take part in childish games. Bognor Regis deserves better than that.
“In a few weeks’ time, the final plans of the new Pavilion Park will be seen. So, I say to others – stop crystal ball gazing and wait until you see those plans.”
According to the civic society’s measurements, Pavilion Park will be 156 sq m x 20.8m (3,244.8 sq m) against the current dimensions of 92.8 sq m x 47.5 sq m (4,408 sq m).
Arun expects the new park to transform the area into a modern multi-use open space.
Its intended features include a water play area, a performance area with a programme of events, a central market square and a cafe. Blocks of flats are also planned along with parking spaces, though the number is not yet known.