What’s happening around our town

ARUN LOSES ITS REGENERATION PARTNER -- PLANS IN DISARRAY

 

After eight years, over a million pounds spent and nothing to show for it, Arun District Council's regeneration plans for the Regis Centre and Hothamton sites have come to a grinding halt as they and the developer St. Modwen part company.

Between them they claim that this is a product of the changed financial situation since the agreement began and that St Modwen can only go ahead with a much lower value scheme, which would violate OJEU official procurement rules.  They neglect to mention that this lower value was made clear by St Modwen at an Arun meeting 10 months ago and do not explain why it took so long for them to admit that the whole thing was falling apart.

They also make no reference to the investigation of Arun by the Government Cabinet Office which was sparked by a member of the public reporting them under the "mystery shopper" scheme.  This resulted in the the Cabinet Office advising Arun, in April of this year, that they should commence a new tendering procedure in order to ensure that the public obtains "the best value for money". That was five months ago, but still nothing was done.

Arun have been at pains to deny that they have received such advice, but it is no surprise to many in the town that this sudden parting of the ways with St. Modwen is mysteriously in compliance with the Cabinet Office advice.

BUT IS THERE MORE TO THIS BEHIND THE SCENES?

Arun claim that they will now apply (to themselves!) for planning permission for substantially the same reduced scheme that St Modwen were suggesting, which will result in at least 200 extra flats in the town, reduced parking facilities and a multiplex cinema that the public have already rejected by a 26% majority no vote at the last consultation.  They plan to do this without developer help and will spend at least a further £500,000 of residents' money on the procedure.

Many in the town are cynical about this and believe that this is simply an underhand method of foisting a poor value scheme on the public without the need to go through the proper tendering procedures -- which are designed to give the public "best value for money."

"And who is to say," said Hugh Coster of Bognor Regis Civic Society, "that after they've granted themselves planning permission for this poor value and hugely speculative scheme that practically nobody wants, St Modwen won't magically reappear to help out by building the whole thing for them.  Thus defeating the object of the OJEU rules designed to protect the public.  The whole thing stinks, and we have to ask ourselves why Arun are so determined to push this through.  It suggests to me that there are other influences at work that we are not being told about, and I think the time has come for a full-scale independent enquiry into the whole affair."

There will be a vote on this at Arun's 10th September meeting, and it will be interesting to see which Councillors are in support of this proposal.

3rd September 2014

 

Update,12th September.  Arun won't consult on public's regeneration plans.  For moire information click here.

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