Bognor Regis Herald — ARUN’S COMMITTEE RUBBER-STAMPS HOTHAMTON “LINEAR PARK” PLAN
by Hugh Coster of the BR CiViC Society
For those of you not sure what the “Linear Park” plan is, it is a scheme to sweep away the Hothamton car park (the ground level one at the top of Queensway) plus the children’s play area and sunken gardens just to the south of it, and replace it all with a much narrower green strip (or “park”) stretching from Queensway right down to West Street. Either side of this green strip will be a strip containing two rows of car parking with an access road between, also stretching the same full length.
The purpose of all this, which they only admit to when pressed, is to make room for one or two new blocks of flats, about 100 of them, which might (or might not, they don’t know yet) mean the loss of the Health facility. The reality of all this, which is only logical when you sit back and think about it, is that if you take a fixed space with car park, play area and green space on it, and then plonk one or two great big blocks of flats on there as well, you end up with less space for re-arranged car park, play area and green space. Unless you’re Arun, who clearly have magical powers, because they claim there’s more green and nearly the same car parking.
So we measured it and, guess what, they’re ly — — er, mistaken. The town will lose up to 76 car park spaces and we will lose some 36% of our current green space. And it’ll cost more that £3.5million — for what? The present green space could be much more cheaply modified to do all the things they claim about the new one (plus eliminate the anti-social aspects) plus upgrading to the present car park. MUCH more cheaply.
But it gets worse. There are very specific dangers to what they propose, which are not there now. Children playing there will be exposed to cars and pollution all around the area all the time. They will also have no protection from the risk of chasing a ball (or each other) into the immediately adjacent car park spaces. Arun wants to sweep away the emergency/fire access road to the west of the Fitzleet tower, potentially creating exactly the lack of access situation that occurred at the tragic and horrific Grenfell Tower fire. Dangerous road junctions will be created opposite Crescent Road at the North end and Waterloo Square at the South. And traffic failing to find a space will be circulating in and out of Queensway and West Street, going round and round looking for a slot. Very little proper thought has gone into any of this.
Yesterday Arun’s Bognor Regis Regeneration Sub-Committee were asked to consider this plan and decide on the way forward. So before that we wrote each of them a letter outlining our concerns, so as to be sure that the rosy picture painted for them by the Officers had a touch of realism. They also received a letter from a resident who is a very experienced but now retired planning officer, a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. He made similar points to ourselves, but much more expertly and with great authority. For your information, our letter is attached herewith.
Did they pay any attention to any of this? Not at all. They ignored it all, instead focusing on minutiae such as what type of water feature there would be etc. All except Cllr Paul Wells, who made powerful arguments for closer attention to the issues we’ve raised. But they ignored him too, also ignoring his request that if there were modifications to be made it should come back to the committee for final approval. Nope. Yesterday was the last the Committee will see of it.
The fact is that that Committee should have been carefully examining every aspect of the overall plan which might or might not be a problem, finding potential answers, suggesting modifications and ensuring that the whole thing had the best chance of effectively working. NOT looking at small details, which can be dealt with later. And then required it to come back to them once the problems had been solved, for further evaluation and checking. None of this. They’ve now rubber-stamped it, washed their hands of it, and the next thing is it’ll be rubber-stamped by the Full Council in January.
We regard this as staggeringly incompetent. Councillor Bence let the cat out of the bag by saying that it was all about money and profit. And topped it all by ignoring the dangers to the children and saying that his only concern about them being close by was that a ball might damage his car!! And Councillor Bower said that he thought that the loss of the Health facility might be of benefit to the town. He doesn’t care, he lives in East Preston.
Sorry to go on so long, but we feel you should know. We are considering whether there should be a public meeting to properly consider the whole thing. But consider this. There was just ONE member of the public at that meeting yesterday — and that was me. Is anybody interested? Does anybody care? I would really like to know.
COMMENT — Well said Hugh, and you know The Herald has been ahead on Arun’s Big Con for ages, pointing out the essential money-grab behind this non-regeneration. Keep saying this, Bognor needs a SAY and your idea of a Meeting is one way we can do this,