Arun District Council has decided to ask the public for their ideas for regenerating
They are offering further public consultation in February 2015
But that consultation will only be on their own original ideas of multiplex, flats
In a dramatic and last-minute turnaround at their Full Council meeting on Wednesday,
Arun's controlling Cabinet group, headed by Gillian Brown, produced a proposal amended
from their prepared agenda in connection with their failed regeneration relationship
with developer St Modwen.
They were originally proposing to press ahead with already discredited and reduced
value proposals for a multiplex cinema, hundreds of flats and a hotel, by granting
themselves planning permission and then finding a builder. This undoubtedly unpopular
move would have come to a head shortly before next year's Council elections, and
the proposal had already attracted a storm of criticism.
Many in the town felt that Arun should now be taking a step back from the original
scheme, listening to further proposals from the town's residents and re-evaluating
the ultimate aims of regeneration.
Arun's amended proposals at the meeting announced that they now wished to carry out
further public consultation in early 2015 on the "core elements" of their original
scheme. What does that mean?-- er, the multiplex cinema, hundreds of flats and
a hotel. Nobody has yet explained why they wish to do this again when they have
already consulted on these and received a majority no response to all of them.
But they also said that they are inviting the public to suggest their own regeneration
ideas "for consideration by the Council". Many assumed that this meant that the
public's ideas would also be consulted on and they would have a chance to vote on
them, but this is not what Arun's document said. Opposition Councillors tried to
get the original "core elements" removed from the consultation, but they were defeated.
Why would Gillian Brown and her boys do that? There would then have been nothing
at all in the consultation!
So the end result is that unless independent groups in the town carry out their own
consultation, other ideas will not see the light of day and the public will have
no opportunity to express their views on alternative schemes to Arun's.
IDEAS IN A DRAWER
"This is just another Arun confidence trick on the public," said Martin Peters from
Bognor Regis after the meeting, "and all they are really doing is delaying the whole
thing until after the election. They know that building hundreds more flats in Bognor
is political suicide, so they are putting it off and at the same time trying to give
the impression they are listening to people. They want to stick any other ideas quietly
in a drawer, and I think that at the very least they should include everybody's ideas
in the consultation."
In addition, Bognor Regis Civic Society is concerned about the consultation itself.
At their meeting on Friday the view was expressed that it should be devised and carried
out by a top quality professional market survey company, to avoid "Arun's propensity
for loaded questions that confuse the public and produce distorted results."
12 September 2012
UPDATE 1st May 2015. Arun's consultation has just closed and, as predicted, it turned
out not to incorporate any of the public's submitted proposals at all.Many in the
town wondered why they bothered, and why Arun limited the public proposals by insisting
that they be fully costed to prove their viability.
This is because the consultation was simply limited to a listing of features that
"might" be included on the Hothamton or Regis Centre sites, with respondents being
invited to state level of support or opposition to them. Followed by asking their
views on whether it should be funded by the taxpeyer, which surely will receive a
It was noted by many that hidden within the list was "cinema", which everybody felt
should have read "another cinema", and which carefully avoided using the now discredited
word "multiplex". And also "residential" rather than "flats" and sounds much more
respectable. And, of course, "hotel" was in there too.
WIDEST POSSIBLE CONSULTATION
An issue of concern is that Arun was using the euphemism "widest possible consultation",
which after some pressure was eventually admitted to mean that they will not just
be consulting Bognor Regis people. They have taken this out to Littlehampton and
all points east of the river, including Ferring and Findon. Not content with that,
they have also consulted people in Worthing and Chichester, and townsfolk are asking
why this is being done when nobody in Bognor Regis has ever been consulted about
issues in those places. The generally held view is that Arun is trying to "fix"
the multiplex issue by asking people who don't know the damaging implications of
a "yes" vote.
It has emerged that this whole operation is being run for Arun by a major firm of
Image Consultants, Bell Pottinger, noted Conservative supporters and whose past clients
include some of questionable reputation. Some of their past methods have been reported
as being questionable too, with reference to the use of "dark arts", and it is to
be hoped that there will be no hint of the results being massaged into Arun-digestible