Visions for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton to provide ‘coherent’ regeneration strategy

Vision documents for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton are set to be provide a ‘coherent strategy’ for regenerating both towns.

A total of £100,000 has been included for the work in Arun District Council’s draft budget for 2022/23, which was discussed at an economy committee meeting last Wednesday.

David Edwards (Con, Felpham East) said the documents are ‘crucial’ to ‘bring forward proper regeneration’.

Bognor Regis has had a significant amount of investment over the last few years,” he said.

Bognor Regis and Littlehampton town centres

“But the majority of that has been out of town, which is why certain people in Bognor Regis perceive that no money has ever been spent.

“We absolutely do need to change that and this vision document will go a long way to helping that happen.”

In an interview last year, Bognor Regis regeneration board chairman called for a re-examination of the policy framework for Bognor Regis town centre.

Independent group leader Tony Dixon (Aldwick East) said he ‘very much supported’ the vision documents but said it was ‘regrettable’ that a call for ideas in September had not been wider.

At the meeting, council leader Shaun Gunner (Con, Rustington East) said he was ‘delighted’ to present a budget which focuses on economic regeneration.

He added: “When I became leader of the council last May, one of the things I laid out very clearly in my speech was that this was an administration that would be looking to improve the economic prosperity of this district.

“This budget very clearly begins to take us on that journey.”

The economy committee has agreed to a draft budget which could see £271,000 spent on ‘economic regeneration’ in the next financial year.

This is an increase on the £241,000 budget for regeneration in 2021-2022.

Around £180,000 of the proposed £271,000 will be spent on staffing costs with £90,000 being spent on ‘supplies and services’ and the remaining £1,000 set aside for transport.

In addition, two new staff members have seen the economic regeneration budget increase by £50,000.

Mr Gunner also said that events budgets would help ‘bring people into Littlehampton and Bognor Regis so that our areas can be prosperous’.

There is a proposal to spend a total of £100,000 on events with £40,000 going towards the newly approved Sussex by the Sea festival.

The remaining £60,000 would be shared between Bognor Regis (£25,000), Littlehampton (£25,000) and Arundel (£10,000) for town centre events.

This would match the budget for last year but a report to the economy committee says there is currently ‘no specific funding’ for the £40,000 festival – instead it has been marked as a ‘growth item’.

The council is hoping to find a sponsor for the event.

Last week officers warned that growth would have to be kept to a minimum as the council is facing a ‘challenging financial climate’ with a ‘potential budget deficit in approximately two years’.

A sum of £150,000 for ‘high street recovery’ is another ‘growth item’ in the draft budget.

Mr Gunner outlined the reasons for the proposed funding, saying: “Increasingly, I get emails from people saying, for example, in Littlehampton: ‘isn’t it great you’re spending money on the public realm – what are you doing to support the high street?’.

“This [funding] is what we’re doing to support the High Street.

“These are the choices that we want to make to improve the economic prosperity of the district; to bring people into our town centres; to make Arun a fantastic place to live, to work, and to visit.”

At the meeting, Mr Dixon also expressed concerns over high rates of inflation and increasing energy prices.

Opposition leader James Walsh (LDem, Beach) asked if the £25,000 gas and electricity contingency in the council’s draft budget would be enough to absorb rising costs.

Finance officers said that, aside from contingencies, inflation estimates had been ‘kept to a minimum’ in the budget in the hopes that they ‘could be contained’.

Interim CEO James Hassett said the council’s inflation is ‘multi-faceted’ and that major costs such as staff wages could be controlled through pay award negotiations.

But he added that rising material costs may see future requests for additional funding.

The full budget will be approved at a council meeting in February.