LETTER: Regeneration much needed

I note in a Bognor Observer poll 87 per cent of respondents agreed with Bill Bryson who wrote in his book The Road to Little Dribbling that as far as he could tell all authorities (Arun District Council and Bognor Town Council) were just keeping Bognor ticking over like a town on life support, clearly recognising neither had grabbed the opportunities for regeneration but rather have tinkered at the edges providing just enough support to keep the town alive.

Further, ADC earlier this year turned down an £80m funded scheme put forward by the Sir Richard Hotham Projects, a scheme that was subsequently supported by 63.37 per cent of those that responded in a town poll.

I note the Sir Richard Hotham Projects have now submitted a revised planning application (BR/156/16/PL) which meets in full all ADC’s previous planning objections including 30 per cent social housing, increased car parking provision in the town/traffic, improved public open spaces, arts centre and improved leisure attractions, including a new skate park, community arts centre, climbing wall, virtual golf etc and improved theatre frontage onto the Queensway. I note that the three sites have been imaginatively connected with the town and seafront with attractive landscaping.

Bognor is desperately in need of regeneration to reverse its economic, social and physical decline, which is as a result of its fall from grace as a tourist destination, due in part to previous and to some extent recent poor planning decisions, and ADC’s obvious and hopefully soon to be historic bias towards Littlehampton. There is no doubt that successful regeneration will strengthen Bognor as a community and create new economic opportunities.

The Sir Richard Hotham scheme includes, a new theatre/conference centre which has attracted the support of the RPO, two hotels, a board-walk consisting a pub, shops and restaurants with al fresco dining, a high profile restaurant, an arts centre and a range of leisure facilities summarised above.

To date there have been a number of proposals but none as well considered and architecturally inspiring as those proposed by The Sir Richard Hotham Projects, which is fully funded to the tune of £80m. The B4R and Arun’s own uninspiring and watered down proposals are not only ugly, not in keeping architecturally but unlikely to result in the hoped for regeneration. Further their viability is questionable.

There are essentially three elements to successful regeneration:

Cultural – leading to inward investment, higher resident and visitor spend, job creation, voluntary, business and cultural sector partnerships, for example, the RPO have already expressed interest with their Resound Programme.

Economic social - Change of image/reputation/residents and visitors perceptions of the town, increased social cohesion bringing with it greater confidence and aspiration, improved health etc.

Environmental/physical – quality architecture in keeping with its environment and drawing on the town’s history, incorporation of environmental improvements, development and use of mixed-use spaces

It is obvious to me, the leisure, hotel and residential development on the current Regis Centre site along with the theatre and associated hotel and seafront restaurant meets all these requirements.

The theatre/conference venue which is already attracting interest will hold 1,000 people who will spend money in the town, stay in local hotels, and eat in local restaurants, and not just walk along the prom and buy fish and chips as is the case with Butlins visitors who are encouraged to stay, eat and be entertained in the resort.

I have written a letter in support to Arun District Council in which I have provided evidence as to the results of similar regeneration schemes elsewhere for which there is insufficient space available here but a copy of my letter can be found on the ADC planning portal.

The spin off from improved tourism and cultural regeneration can be huge, which again I have attempted to demonstrate in my letter.

Bognor is architecturally and culturally deprived, run-down and suffers from an out-dated image and poor reputation, associated with its economic decline and its social consequences, which in the long term will not help its employment prospects, local confidence and self-esteem.

As Bill Bryson observed, Bognor is currently on life support and I hope I strongly believe in the design, architectural, cultural and economic and environmental benefits of the Sir Richard Hotham Projects proposals.

Objectors to any scheme will always shout the loudest and I would urge your readers that agree with me that Bognor desperately needs regeneration to lodge their support on the ADC website.

Ray Hagger

Cosens Way

Felpham