BOGNOR REGIS REGENERATION -- WAS ARUN'S CONSULTATION GENUINE OR FAKE?
Proposals revealed to include already widely criticised multiplex building and 80
flats on Regis Centre site
200 more flats and nothing else on Hothamton site
Theatre gains only a small number of extra seats
Massive loss of town centre car parking
Consultation events taken to other towns and schoolchildren
'Propaganda' style advertising by Arun to persuade favourable response
Controlled access to Arun's only public meeting, written questions only
Committee recommends approval, ignoring majority public NO to multiplex
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
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."