ARUN'S PICTUREDROME PETITION CONFUSION: THE MEETING DECIDES TO HAVE ANOTHER MEETING!
Councillors have difficulty understanding the wording that 10,868 people seem to
Councillor Hitchins criticises Town Council for saving the cinema
Councillor Evans incorrectly compares Bognor Regis with Dorchester
Councillors decide they don't know enough about what they are discussing and must
have another meeting (or two) to find out
There was both anger and amusement among the public observing the Bognor Regis Regeneration
Sub-Committee meeting earlier this week, as confusion among the participating Arun
District Council members turned to admission of their own ignorance of the subject
they were discussing - and then rambled into a lengthy examination of their own diaries
when they decided to have another meeting to do what they should have done in this
They were discussing the 10,868 signature "Help Protect the Picturedrome" petition
recently presented to Arun by the Bognor Regis Civic Society, with a view to making
a recommendation to the Full Council so that the matter may be debated there in the
near future. The Civic Society had objected to this committee discussing the matter
on a number of grounds which included several committee members having publicly displayed
their prejudice against the Picturedrome through critical remarks and letters to
the Bognor Observer. The Society's objection was not upheld.
After two leading Councillors had struggled to understand the words "during the period
the Picturedrome Cinema remains in business," Councillor Hitchins criticised Bognor
Regis Town Council for spending "a foolhardy amount in support of a private business."
This ignored the fact that the Town Council had simply purchased the building and
let it at commercial rates, and had not supported any business at all.
Councillors Nash and Oppler spoke strongly in defence of the petition, reminding
the committee of the enormous strength of public feeling behind it and criticising
other members for raising "red herring" issues to confuse the matter. Councillor
Nash called for a spirit of co-operation to achieve the wishes of the public.
This call was not taken up by members of the ruling group and Councillor Evans told
the committee that there were two cinemas successfully operating in Dorchester "side
by side" and he didn't see why the same shouldn't happen in Bognor Regis. This information
was inaccurate, as the second cinema in Dorchester doesn't open until October 26th
and there is therefore no evidence to support his remarks.
Finally it was decided that the committee did not have sufficient information to
make a decision, and it would be necessary to have another meeting to receive input
from other sources, although the Chairman, Councillor Bence, pointedly excluded "the
public" from the committee's sources of information. After a lengthy examination
of their diaries, the committee decided that this meeting should be on 7th November,
possibly with another following in December or January.
"This meeting was a total farce," said Civic Society Deputy Chairman Hugh Coster
afterwards, "with a staggering level of ignorance displayed and eventually admitted
by most of the Councillors. They have had ample opportunity to learn the facts of
the matter, including a special information meeting laid on by the Town Council -
and which none of them bothered to attend.
"Add to that Councillor Evans misleading the meeting with his inaccuracies and Councillor
Hitchins criticising the Town Council," he went on, "if it had been left to them
the town would have lost its cinema long ago while they messed about in endless committees.
I do not believe that any of them, with the exception of Councillors Nash and Oppler
are fit to make this sort of decision, nor indeed any sort of decision about Bognor
Regis. The truth is that they are afraid of refusing the petition, yet their own
secret agendas are preventing them from accepting it. They are now trying to delay
the matter so that it will be confused and obscured by the coming regeneration consultation.
It's about time there was a bit of plain and honest talking instead of all this silly