Bognor Regis protestors condemn 'hypocrisy' of Michael Gove golf club visit

"It’s hypocritical and we need to hold him to account.”

Demonstrators in Bognor Regis criticised Michael Gove’s visit to the town’s golf club for a Conservative Association dinner on Friday (May 16)

Mr Gove, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, visited the Bognor Regis Golf Club on Friday for a dinner organised by the local Conservative Association. He was joined by Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb, alongside a number of Conservative councillors at the District and county level.

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Among the protestors were Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors from across all levels of local government.

Nick Gibb MP confronts protestors outside the Bognor Regis Golf Club

Although the Conservative Association have made clear that no official comment was expected on the night of the dinner, Mr Gove was criticised by protestors for failing to engage with the crowd. Rather than come through the front of the building, the Secretary of State was escorted round the back, much to the frustration of demonstrators.

“Mr Gove was quoted as saying ‘artithmetic but so is coming together, so is beauty, and so is democracy’. Democracy is about hearing the voice of the people,” said Arun District Councillor Amanda Worne, referencing a controversial BBC breakfast interview with the Secretary of State. “So Mr Gove comes down to Bognor, totally ignores us to go and have a meal with his colleagues. it's a double standard.

"It’s hypocritical and we need to hold him to account.”

The Bognor Regis Golf Club, in Downview Road, Felpham is currently subject to a live planning application for up to 480 homes and associated infrastructure. Residents have expressed concerns for its potential effect oversubscribed roads, schools and hospitals, worrying it will rob the village of its environmental identity.

“They’re redeveloping a beautiful area with lots of wildlife and nature, and putting loads of houses on it,” said resident Neil Strudwick.

“We’ve got enough new houses already, and they want to bring hundreds of houses worth of cars straight down this road into the village, when they've just built a new road to take traffic out the village. And the traffic when the schools are in is crazy, and they want to add another 1100 cars a day,” added his wife Natalie.

For Clive Fennel, the man behind a petition to ban development on agricultural land, the golf club development is a flashpoint for countywide problems: "This countryside like this is needed not just for the wildlife, but also for food. Which is a real priority. We could potentially lose Ukraine’s food, which is 30 per cent of our food.

"We need this land for food. We need it for the environment and we need it for our wellbeing.”

Nick Gibb MP, confronted the protestors on Friday moments after arriving for the dinner and said the application was ‘completely separate’ from Mr Gove's dinner. "The event has been planned for many many months, before the application went through,” he explained.

The MP went on to express his opposition to the application: “It's not in the structural plan, it's not a site. In theory it shouldn’t get through. You’re very welcome to protest.”