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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.


"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 predictable response.

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.


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 form.  

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