Deputy mayor calls for conversation about the future of Bognor Regis pier
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Elected on May 10, Cllr Matt Stanley (Lib Dem) said the town deserves a pier it can be proud of, and has called on councillors and stakeholders to ‘get round the table’ and discuss options for its future.
“Clearly with the Place St Maur project and the Levelling Up Fund, regeneration is very much at the forefront of people’s minds,” he explained. “And one of the things that came of that was a significant consultation done by the council in 2015. And by far, the biggest response from residents about the kind of thing they wanted to see was the pier."
Despite that outcome, Cllr Stanley feels the conversation around regeneration has instead focused on other areas of the town. Aeras like The Esplanade, Place St Maur and The Regis Centre.
His comments come, after all, as work continues on a Place St Maur project which will see the area transformed into an attractive gateway between the seafront and the town centre, complete with water features and modern seating.
While he feels these are all hugely worthwhile, for Cllr Stanley, the pier is an important part of what makes Bognor Regis the seaside town it is, and it’s been unfairly ignored.
"We haven’t really had any proper conversations about the future of the pier,” he said. “And for me, if we're going to talk about seafront development, the pier has got to be part of that.”
Cllr Stanley has acknowledged that, since the pier is not publicly owned, developing it might be more complicated than regenerating other parts of the seafront, requiring greater co-operation with stakeholders, but insists that doing so is worthwhile, saying: “It’s getting to the point where this is a conversation we need to restart.”
The question therefore remains: what would Cllr Stanley like to see happen to the pier? and, in that regard, he’s open minded. Just so long as talks are being organised, and the pier gets the attention it deserves.
He said: “I think firstly, we need to have a conversation about the existing structure. I’m aware the district council and the owner do safety checks, but, personally, I’d like to see that structure enhanced and made a leisure attraction.
"Beyond that, I’m open minded. But I think it comes down to two things. Do we look at restoring elements of the pier in a more traditional sense? Or do we have a conversation about a second, more modern pier?”
Paul Wells, chairman of The Bognor Pier Trust said he would welcome any attempt to restart a conversation about the grade II listed site
Working with the Trust, Mr Wells wrote a bid for national lottery funding back in 2016. The money would have been used to improve the seafront attraction, but the bids was not submitted after owners at Bognor Pier Leisure Limited retracted their support.
Either way, Mr Wells is pleased to see the pier back in the local conversation: “I’d welcome any discussion that might help safeguard the pier for the future. The pier is a focal point of the seafront and, as we always said, the pier should form part of any regenerations proposals which come forward for the town.”