Arun District Council bought the building in 2017 with the aim of improving and restoring it as ‘a key attraction in the town’.
One major problem, though, was the flat roof on the east side.
Periods of very heavy rain have seen water dripping into businesses on the ground floor and damaging the vacant upper floors.
During a meeting of the economy committee on Wednesday (January 19), members were told the roof had been patched and repaired many times but had since ‘deteriorated more rapidly than expected’.
Paul Broggi, property, estates and facilities manager, mentioned a number of structural defects but explained that they wouldn’t know the extent of the damage until the roof was stripped back.
Replacement of the roof had been put off due to proposals to redevelop the upper floors.
There were suggestions from some that a temporary roof be put in place while the council worked out exactly what it wanted to do.
Tony Dixon (Ind, Aldwick East) suggested that extra floors could be added.
He said: “We’ve been kicking the can down the road for a number of years and we need to get to grips with it.
“If we spend £200k on this roof now we are going to restrict our options.
He was backed by James Walsh (Lib Dem, Beach) who said the Arcade had been a ‘running problem’ for the council as it was bought ‘without a clear plan of what we wanted to do’.
He added: “It’s a failed investment. We’ve got to get out of it as quickly as possible without throwing good money after bad.”
However, a report from officers made it clear that waiting was not an option, describing the risk to the building and the traders on the east side as ‘significant’.
It added: “[T]his situation now requires the council’s urgent action to avoid the occurrence of a more serious water ingress and compensation event.”
David Edwards (Con, Felpham East) said: “We’ve got businesses in there who pay us rent.
“We have a duty of care to those businesses as a landlord to ensure that they’re able to function correctly and properly and safely.”
The committee agreed that procurement of the roof and associated work could go ahead, delegating authority to the group head of technical services to deal with the contract side of things.
This would be subject to approval of the 2022/23 budget in February.
They also agreed that a report would be brought back to the committee as soon as possible with a recommendation on the future use of the upper floors of the Arcade.
The idea did not go down well with everyone.
Hugh Coster (Ind, Aldwick East), who was not on the committee but was allowed to speak, said putting a new roof on ‘would be like putting a new engine in a rusty car which has failed its MOT. It will be a complete waste of money’.
The final word went to committee chairman Andy Cooper (Con, Angmering & Findon) who said replacing the roof was ‘a tough decision but the right decision’.
He added: “We want to see progress, we want to see that landmark protected.
“By delaying we are not going to protect this landmark in Bognor.”