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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 one.

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 manoeuvering."

18 October 2012

What happened about Cllr. Evans' inaccurate information?  Click here.

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