'HELP PROTECT THE PICTUREDROME' PETITION HANDED TO ARUN DISTRICT COUNCIL
Young CiViC members hand petition to Council Chairman
10,868 signatures means Council must publicly debate its response
Cabinet member indicates prejudiced position against petition
At Arun District Council's Full Council meeting on 5th September a small group of
young volunteers represented Bognor Regis Civic Society and handed a 10,868 signature
petition to the Chairman, Councillor Ann Smee.
The petition asked the Council to help protect the future of the Picturedrome Cinema
in Bognor Regis by refusing Landlord's/Landowner's permission for the establishment
of any competing cinema on any land they own or control in the town while the Picturedrome
remains in business.
This came about because Arun District Council and their development partner St. Modwen
have announced that they propose to build a multiplex cinema on the Regis Centre
site as part of their regeneration plans. This has angered Bognor Regis people because
it is well known that in towns where a multiplex is built, any small independent
cinema nearly always goes out of business.
The reason for this is that cinema distributors will only supply first-run blockbuster
films to one cinema in any town, and because they share in the ticket sales this
is always the one with the highest seat prices. Hence the Picturedrome, with bargain
seat prices from £2.50 will lose out and Bognor Regis people will be forced to pay
£7 or more to see the latest films. Some may wait until a later date to see those
films at the Picturedrome, but supporters say it is ludicrous to expect most people
to do this.
Hence attendances will fall and the Picturedrome will fail as others have elsewhere
- and then everybody will have no alternative but to pay more than twice the price
they were before. Inevitably, this prospect is not popular.
In addition, not long ago Bognor Regis Town Council, with the approval of the townsfolk,
bought the Picturedrome building to save it from being converted into flats. The
rent received from the cinema operator enables them to make the payments on borrowings
for this of some £400,000.
Arun's proposals are considered to be undermining and endangering the finances of
the Town Council because the potential failure of the cinema operator will mean no
rent coming in yet still a massive mortgage to repay. The building will be difficult
to re-let for any alternative use and the end result will be increased council tax
costs for the four Town Council wards' residents. This prospect is not popular either.
Because of the large number of signatures, Arun will be obliged to debate their response
to the petition in public sometime soon. Campaigners at the handover were concerned
to hear senior Cabinet Member Norman Dingemans say, in an answer to a question from
Chamber of Commerce Chairman Nick Stuart-Nicolson, that the Council were "not in
the business of preventing competition." Many said this sounded as if he has made
up his mind already! Should he therefore declare a prejudicial interest before the
UPDATE 14th October 2012: It was announced at the 12th October Bognor Regis Civic
Society meeting that the petition is to be discussed by Arun District Council's Bognor
Regis Regeneration Sub-Committee and their recommendations will be passed to the
Full Council for their consideration at a future debate.
The Civic Society has written to Arun indicating the reasons why they believe it
is inappropriate for the matter to be considered by the Sub-Committee, which include
public criticism of the Picturedrome by three of its members which, they say, indicates
a prejudiced view.
The committee meeting is on Tuesday 16th October at 6pm in Bognor Regis Town Hall