REGENERATION BOARD RECOMMENDS ARUN SPENDS SAINSBURY'S 'TOWN CENTRE IMPROVEMENT' MONEY
FITTING OUT ITS OWN PROPERTY FOR TENANT
Sainsbury's Section 106 money intended to mitigate potential damage to town centre
because of the advent of the new out-of-town store
Regeneration Board has already recommended allocation of £100,000 of this money to
Councils, including Arun
Board now recommends giving £15,000 to pay fitting out costs for new tenant in Arun
District Council's own property
When Arun District Council gave planning permission for Sainsbury's to build a new
superstore on the outskirts of Bognor Regis, there was an agreement that Sainsbury's
would give £500,000 (known as 'Section 106 money') to Arun to be used to mitigate
the likely damage to the town centre caused by the advent of the supermarket.
Arun gave the task of allocating the use of this money to the Bognor Regis Regeneration
Board, which meets in secret and publishes no minutes or agendas. However, because
this group, which was set up by Arun and is still part funded by them, has no legal
status or even any visible existence, it can't actually do anything at all. So Arun
gets round this by receiving 'recommendations' from the Board and immediately adopting
them without question.
This Board, most of whom are not elected by anybody, has already obliged Arun by
giving £100,000 of this money to Councils, including Arun, for purposes which are
unclear but include such things as 'public realm improvement.'
Now the Board has obliged Arun again by agreeing to recommend giving a further £15,000
of this money for the fitting out of the former Museum premises in Little High Street,
Bognor Regis. This property is owned by Arun but has been empty for some time, since
the Museum moved to West Street. Arun does not appear to have made any effort to
re-let the premises as not even a sign has appeared in the window to indicate that
it might be available.
So, instead of re-letting the property and receiving an income to take a tiny bit
of pressure off cash-strapped council taxpayers, Arun has decided to assist an arts
group by giving them some kind of special deal to go in there, probably rent-free,
including funding their fitting out costs from public money.
Critics of this arrangement are not criticising the arts group, although it has to
be said that their business model, apparently non-profit-making, appears to be a
kind of marketing front for artists who may well seek to be paid commercial rates.
Regardless of this, objections centre around the fact that public money is being
diverted towards Arun's own property, when Arun should be taking steps to maximise
its income from the premises in the normal commercial market, for the benefit of
all council taxpayers. Excuses from Arun that the property is impossible to let
are dismissed by property experts in the town with the comment that all properties
can be let providing the price asked is appropriate.
It is further questioned whether this qualifies within the original purpose of the
money, being to mitigate potential damage to the town centre by the existence of
Sainsbury's. Critics agree that this may bring an empty shop back into use and for
a beneficial purpose, but argue that this could just as well have been done by normal
commercial processes which could have resulted in a rental income for the Council,
rather than the expenditure of public money - which could have been put to better