What’s happening around our town

BOGNOR REGIS REGENERATION -- WAS ARUN'S CONSULTATION GENUINE OR FAKE?

In November 2012 Arun District Council finally revealed its proposals for redevelopment of its two principal sites in Bognor Regis, which it is marketing as the 'regeneration' of the town. This took the form of a consultation exercise which was intended to last just 21 days, to 12th December. In the event, Arun stretched it through until January by adding a door-to-door survey to the originally planned two because, they later claimed, the others were not statistically valid.  

The general view in the town was that they had discovered a massive rejection and wished to try and reverse it.  The methodology employed was to carry out another survey in which the only information available to the participants was that provided by Arun, this enabling them to gloss over some embarrassingly negative features of the proposals.

WHAT WAS ARUN PROPOSING?

The proposals incorporated a multi-screen cinema on the Regis Centre site, a feature which had already been widely criticised, and had been effectively rejected by nearly 11,000 people in a petition to Arun.  Also on that site would be shops and restaurants, an hotel and 80 flats (also previously rejected by a petition of 10,158 people).  There would be improvements to the Alexandra theatre, adding a small number of seats but not achieving the magic number of 500.  But all this would result in the loss of 136 car parking spaces, leaving just 60 on the site to serve all the extra facilities on the site, plus the town as well.

This loss of car parking spaces was compounded by the loss of a further 215 on the Hothamton site, where a further 200 flats were proposed with no indication of anything  else to be included.

A number of consultation events were held in various locations around the town and which were well attended, and Bognor Regis Civic Society handed out leaflets which reminded attendees that Bognor was gaining 280 flats and losing 275 car parking spaces, and also might lose the Picturedrome if the multi-screen cinema was built.

ARUN'S CONSULTATION TRICKS

In addition, and some claimed that this was to avoid the presence of the Civic Society, Arun took the consultation to Arundel, Littlehampton, Littlehampton Academy, Westergate School, Felpham Community College, Regis School and various businesses including Fitness First and Wiley’s.  A number of Bognor Regis people questioned the necessity for other towns to be involved, pointing out that they had never been consulted about Arundel or Littlehampton matters.

In the course of this Arun paid for a four page 'wraparound' to the Bognor Regis Guardian newspaper, delivered free to most Bognor Regis homes, which read: "WANTED for Bognor Regis", followed by a listing of the redevelopment features, including the cinema.  This resulted in a number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, on the grounds that there was no evidence that these items actually were wanted, and none would be available until after the consultation was concluded.  These complaints were subsequently rejected by the ASA on a technicality.

ARUN REFUSES TO ATTEND PUBLIC Q&A

Bognor Regis Civic Society requested Arun Leader, Gillian Brown and her colleagues to attend a special public question and answer session to deal with all matters to do with the regeneration proposals and consultation.  Arun refused to do this, saying that they would be holding their own Q&A session soon.  But this did not take place until February 2013, just one day before the results of the consultation were announced, thereby avoiding any questions on that issue.  There has been no further opportunity for public debate with Arun on the matter.  There were also a number of complaints that Arun limited the attendance to this meeting by making it ticket only, and holding it in the University rather than in the heart of the town.  As a result the attendance was poor and there was no debate.

ARUN IGNORES PUBLIC VOTE AND GOES AHEAD ANYWAY

The end result of it all was that Arun's Bognor Regis Regeneration Sub-Committee, and subsequently the whole Council, decided to go ahead with the scheme, ignoring the simple fact that 5,098 of the public had voted a 26% majority NO to the Multiplex Cinema, also a majority NO to the flats and the hotel. Cllr. Gillian Brown sought to justify this by saying that a majority of the under35 age group in one telephone survey covering only 362 people, had voted in favour.  There was a total of just 18 people under 35 in that survey.

"This demonstrates that the whole exercise was a sham and a confidence trick on the public," said Hugh Coster of Bognor Regis Civic Society, "and that Arun had not the slightest intention of listening to the public's views on the matter.  All they intended to do was make it look like a consultation and then go ahead anyway.  I’m afraid this shows that Arun are simply not to be trusted with important matters like this."

21 March 2014.

Click here to return to Frontpage News