By Kevin Smith
Sites crucial to the regeneration of Bognor Regis will remain with a council.
Arun District Council leader Cllr Dr James Walsh said its stance to keep hold of the Hothamton and Regis Centre locations was unchanged.
He told councillors last week: “The council decision of July 18, 2018, was to ‘reaffirm not making any commitment as landowner to enter into any binding legal agreements pursuant to the granting of any planning permission in 2018, for the regeneration of the Regis Centre and Hothamton car park sites under its freehold ownership’. This position remains unchanged.”
The council was also committed to compiling plans for the Sunken Garden and play area portion of the Hothamton site, off Queensway, without any flats.
“These proposals will not include any residential development and the health centre will not be affected by any of the plans put forward,” he said.
This position dated back to November, 2016, and had been confirmed by councillors in the following February and March.
He said at last Wednesday’s full council meeting the chief executive, Nigel Lynn, had emailed the Sir Richard Hotham Project – which has received planning approval for its £90m regeneration ideas – to state this position.
Mr Lynn would be willing to meet representatives of the project ‘in order to make the council’s position abundantly clear’, he said.
“The council is focusing on the Sunken Garden options and a report will be taken to cabinet in spring 2020.”
Cllr Dr Walsh was responding to a question from the Cllr Mike Northeast (Lab, Courtwick): “Does he (Cllr Dr Walsh) understand that regeneration figures highly in the concerns of residents and that many feel we should get regeneration done, after at least 20 years and four since the consultation?”
Cllr Northeast said the council’s decision to abandon the previous Pavilion Park scheme for Hothamton opened the way for the Sir Richard Hotham Project to proceed.
He called on Cllr Dr Walsh to ‘agree that this project with full planning permission, fully drawn-up plans and funding is now the most advanced regeneration proposal and that councillors should have the opportunity to consider it on its merits and stage of development based on a level playing field’.
Cllr Northeast also urged that a flexible and open approach by the project and Arun, within the context of the planning permission, was ‘the most assured route’ to a successful regeneration and also to other ideas being included in the plans.
Among the proposals put forward by the Sir Richard Hotham Project are a 1,100-seat theatre and a hotel on the Hothamton site. For the Regis Centre, it envisages keeping the current theatre and creating a mixture of retail, leisure and flats around it.