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ARUN DISTRICT COUNCIL ATTEMPTS TO FORCE RE-OPENING OF HIGH STREET

In an extraordinary turn of events Arun District Council, following its public consultation at the end of 2012, suddenly realised that its controversial regeneration plans for Bognor Regis, which involved building on the town's two major car parks, would not leave enough parking for the facilities they planned to build, let alone the rest of the town.

Many in the town regarded this as a somewhat extraordinary oversight by the Council and its partner, major developer St. Modwen, after some ten years of planning, consultation and discussion. "What next?" a Bognor Regis Town Councillor was heard to say, "Will they be forgetting to put the drains in?"

To solve this problem Arun proposed that the section of the Esplanade eastwards of the Regis Centre should contain "echelon" parking so that a great many more cars could be parked there, effectively substituting that part of the road for the lost car parks.  But there was not sufficient space for this with two-way traffic, so Arun also proposed that the Esplanade should be made one-way, carrying eastbound traffic.

But in order to accommodate westbound traffic the proposal was also that the High Street should be re-opened to allow this.

None of this went down well with Bognor Regis people, and over the course of several meetings views were expressed that the echelon parking would be dangerous and that it would be detrimental to the town to re-open the High Street to through traffic. Arun did not carry out any consultation into any of this, and proceeded with the proposal regardless of objections.

However, it was necessary for the proposal to be approved by West Sussex County Council, as Highway Authority, and the matter came up for consideration at the Joint West Arun Area Committee (JWAAC), which is a joint committee involving West Sussex, Arun and Parish Councils.

After some vigorous discussion the vote on the matter was taken, and as the matter related to Highways and was not in the remit of Arun, only the County Councillors were permitted to vote. The result was that the three UKIP Councillors and one Lib-Dem voted against the proposal, and the single Conservative in favour.

The proposal was therefore rejected in favour of a plan to improve the signage and surfacing of the High Street to discourage the persistent invasion of the pedestrian area by unauthorised vehicles.  The Conservative Arun District Councillors were extremely unhappy with this decision and maintained that the vote had not been taken correctly.  Some correspondence ensued between the two Councils, but we understand that it has been decided that the decision was properly made.

Following this, there has been some suggestion by the Conservative Arun Councillors that they will no longer participate in JWAAC, which the Mayor of Bognor Regis described as "throwing the toys out of the pram".  We await events with interest.

22nd October, 2013.

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