Decision to reject offer for new Bognor Regis student housing criticised

Student housing had been planned on the London Road Car ParkStudent housing had been planned on the London Road Car Park
Student housing had been planned on the London Road Car Park
Arun District Council’s decision to reject an offer to develop a Bognor car park into student housing has been described as ‘a crazy situation’.

The comment was made by Paul Dendle (Con, Arundel & Walberton) after cabinet members chose instead to speak to Sussex Police about making use of both the car park, in London Road, and the neighbouring police station.

Mr Dendle said: “This is a crazy situation. Every student brings £20,000 per year to the Bognor economy.

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“By creating student accommodation you are building on a winning institution and bringing in much-needed funds to help the district’s finances at a crucial time”

The council marketed the site for student housing in 2018, even picking a company to take on the project.

Things changed with the onset of the pandemic and the bidder withdrew before coming back with an offer for less money.

The decision to reject the offer was made in private and a council spokesman would not reveal how much money would have been involved.

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A group of seven Conservative and independent councillors tried to call in the decision for further debate – a call that was accepted at first but then dismissed as not valid.

The problem lay in the council’s constitution, which said call-ins were only valid if supported by members from more than one party – this did not include independent councillors.

The issue came to a head at Monday’s meeting of the cabinet during a discussion about Arun’s response to the pandemic – a situation which has left the council with a sizeable hole in its budget.

Leader Dr James Walsh was asked if he knew how much money students would have brought to the area and why the offer was turned down.

But he refused to answer questions on the decision.