by Hugh Coster, Civic Society

Read Full Edition of the Herald HERE

by Hugh Coster, Bognor CiViC Society

Many of you will have seen that the Civic Society has criticised Arun’s proposals for the Hothamton site as not fit for purpose and providing little that is not already available in the town.

After attending the recent exhibition of the proposals we measured the site and found that the illustrations provided by Arun were misleading. Their garden areas were made to look as though they amounted to the full width of the present gardens, and we found that in reality they will be less than half the width we have at present. Right now there is space for children to run freely for the whole length of the gardens over a width of about 47 metres, yet if Arun have their way this will be reduced to about 20 metres. Arun are sneakily short-changing Bognor Regis with half a park in place of what we already have.

Worse still, their new arrangement will bring children into conflict with cars parking. Right now the gardens are well separated from the cars, and why Arun thinks they can mix up cars parking with children playing we can’t imagine. Either side and down the full length of their proposed small strip of green they will have some 17 metres width of roadway with parking cars coming and going, which is totally barmy. It might be a little different if they were adding something that the town doesn’t already have, but they are not. All we will have is a bland re-working of the present lush garden and mature trees, overshadowed by massive new blocks of flats and flanked by rows of cars.

The Society has also highlighted that Arun won’t say what will happen to the Health Centre, because they don’t know. We are concerned that this facility will be swept away in Arun’s rush to build more than 100 flats on this site. This mustn’t happen. Folk all around the area need to be able to get to medical help without being forced to go further afield in Arun’s drive to make money out of the town. It’s bad enough that they are proposing to cut the number of available parking spaces on this site, but driving away medical facilities absolutely must not happen.

The Society is calling for Arun to radically reconsider their proposals. Most of the uses proposed can happen in the existing gardens with a little modification and better supervision, and more large blocks of flats are not what the town needs. It is very likely they will worsen the ‘wind tunnel’ effect that already exists at Queensway and Hothamton. And we need more parking spaces for shoppers and visitors not fewer, which is the only way to bring more money into the town and hence better shops.

Arun has chosen to respond to this with inaccurate figures, to further compound their slack attitude towards the whole issue. We will respond to this later, but the thing is, does anybody in Bognor Regis CARE about all this? Let’s hear what you think, but PLEASE keep on topic.

Not content with trying to cheat Bognor Regis out of green space and car parking in their “Linear Park” proposals at Hothamton, Arun District Council is now trying to deceive us by producing false figures in justification.

Their unnamed spokesman quoted in last week’s Bognor Post has claimed that sweeping away the gardens we already have and replacing them with their own version will result in 305 sq m of extra space. The Civic Society has carefully measured the area and this claim is wholly and mischievously untrue. The truth is that their proposals will result in the loss of 1146 sq. m of garden and play space, not to mention the loss of dozens of mature trees and plants.

They also try to claim that mixing cars parking with children playing is of little consequence, and that somehow a pathway and narrow grassy strip will stop a toddler chasing a ball into the path of a car. This is dangerously naive and Arun is playing with people’s lives in order to gain space for profit-making flat-building.

Denise Vine, Arun regeneration supremo, claims there will not be less parking, but once again the numbers show who is telling the truth. At present we have 209 spaces, yet the maximum they offer is 155–200. Bognor Regis desperately needs more parking, not less, but what it does not need is two more massive blocks of flats creating an additional wind tunnel to the one we already have at Queensway. And if you’re wondering why there’s less parking AND less green space, there’s your answer — they are filling up the space with flats.

The uses suggested for the “new” gardens could all be sited on the present gardens without the corporate vandalism they propose, and any existing problems could be solved with a little modification and proper supervision. Bognor Regis people have already said NO to Hothamton flats in Arun’s own consultations, and the Council would do well to listen for a change. Certainly not to try and cheat us with false figures.