This report sets out the strategic options for the regeneration of the Regis Centre, Bognor Regis utilising Levelling up Fund grant funding.
The Chair confirmed that as the next two agenda items were closely linked, he proposed to combine them to make debate easier. He confirmed that the voting on each item’s recommendations would remain separate as there were recommendations that would be forwarded to Full Council to consider.
The Regeneration Consultant was invited to present his reports. He explained that the first report (Item 7) focused on the strategic options for regeneration of The Regis Centre, Bognor Regis using the levelling-up fund grant funding.
The committee was reminded that the council owned the freehold of the Regis Centre site where the theatre was currently located. The Regis Centre building was held on a long lease from the council by Whitbread Plc. The southern end of the building (seaward facing) was operated by Whitbread as a Brewers Fayre restaurant and pub. The northern end of the building was sub-let to Arun Arts, a registered charity operating the theatre. To progress any refurbishment or extension of the Alexandra Theatre the council needed to negotiate with Whitbread Plc to either allow full access to the building to enable work to progress or surrender their lease of the whole building.
The report before the Committee set out in detail the options available to the council to secure the most desirable medium-term outcome in order that inward investment be retained on the site and that its cultural, social and economic value to the Town was maximised. It was outlined that there might be other options that the Committee might wish to debate at length and consider.
The next report [Agenda Item 8] set out proposed heads of terms in relation to lease arrangements for The Regis Centre and an associated development opportunity for approval.
The Chair invited questions on both reports. Councillor Stanley confirmed that he wished to make amendments to the recommendations in Item 7 as he had concerns over the style of any future hotel which would be located next to a Grade II listed property. This was because he believed that there had been questionable planning decisions made previously on heritage assets which had been destroyed in Bognor Regis. His amendment intended to make it clear that that the council would like more conversation in terms of its expectations for any hotel.
Councillor Stanley then confirmed the wording to his amendment to
Recommendation (1) – as set out below. Additions are shown in
bold with any deletions shown using
(1) Approve Option 2 in the report which is for the council to secure the surrender of Whitbread PLC’s lease of the existing Regis Centre building with the sale of a new lease of 125 years to Whitbread for the southeast corner site for the construction of a 102 bedroom hotel, and the Committee looks forward to a development that is respectful of its seafront and its position next to a Grade 2 listed building.
Councillor Stanley then confirmed the detail of his second amendment which read: “Subject to a fixed agenda item on all Policy & Finance Committee meetings to provide Committee Members an update on this project as well as a monthly progress report distributed to all via email.”
Councillor Oppler seconded this amendment.
The Regeneration Officer and the Group Head of Law & Governance and Monitoring Officer provided advice to the Committee. They confirmed that the Committee could not fettle with planning processes and advised against making a subjective aspiration that could not be measured, however, felt comfortable with the Committee confirming an aspiration. It was confirmed that the second amendment should be classed as a new recommendation (2a) that the Committee could resolve.
The Chair then invited debate on the amendment. This saw some Councillors stating that it was sensible for the council to send a signal to Whitbread which it could respond to.
As there were no more Councillors requesting to be speak further on the amendment, the chair put it to the vote. On the amendment being put to the vote it was unanimously passed.
The Chair then returned to the substantive recommendations for Item 7 and the recommendations for Item 8 and invited debate.
A detailed question and answer session then took place.
The Regeneration Officer then explained the Heads of Terms in relation to lease arrangements. Timescales were discussed and explained alongside financial implications. Questions relating to the other options set out within the report were asked and answered, alongside other scenarios raised by the Committee.
In debating the proposed option set out within the report, there were Members that confirmed that they could not give the proposals their full support. They felt pressurised into making decisions and wanted more enhanced facts and information. Some felt that the risks to the council and others were too great. Some felt that there were too many disadvantages making this a poor deal for Bognor Regis.
Following a lengthy debate and further questions, the Chair then turned to the substantive recommendations in Item 7. A recorded vote was requested.
Those voting for recommendations (1) and (2) were Councillors Cooper, Goodheart, Gunner, Pendleton and Roberts (5). Councillor Dixon voted against the recommendations. Councillors Oppler, Stanley and Walsh abstained from voting (3).
RESOLVED – That
(1) Approval be given to Option 2 in the report which is for the council to secure the surrender of Whitbread PLC’s lease of the existing Regis Centre building with the sale of a new lease of 125 years to Whitbread for the southeast corner site for the construction of a 102-bedroom hotel; and the committee look forward to a development that is respectful of its seafront setting and its position next to a Grade 2 listed building.
(2) Agree to delegate authority to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Section 151 Officer to conclude the detailed negotiations with Whitbread PLC to deliver the project; and
(2a) Subject to a fixed agenda item on all P&F committee meetings to provide committee members an update on this project as well as a monthly progress report distributed to all via email.
The Chair then turned to Recommendations (3) and (4). A recorded vote had been requested. Those voting for were Councillors Cooper, Goodheart, Gunner, Pendleton and Roberts (5). No Councillors voted against. Councillors Dixon, Oppler, Stanley and Walsh abstained from voting (4).
The Committee therefore
RECOMMEND TO FULL COUNCIL – That
(1) A supplementary Capital Estimate of £3m to support the delivery of Option 2 as outlined in the report is approved; and
(2) A supplementary Capital Estimate of £750k to buy back the current lease of the site as outlined in Paragraph 4.15.16.
The Chair then turned to the recommendations in Agenda Item 8. A recorded vote had been requested. Those voting for were Councillors Cooper, Goodheart, Gunner, Pendleton and Roberts (5). Councillor Dixon voted against (1). Councillors Oppler, Stanley and Walsh abstained from voting (3).
The Committee therefore
That subject to the approval of the required funding by Full Council, the Committee:
(1) Approve the Heads of Terms with Whitbread PLC;
(2) Delegates to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Section 151 Officer, to:
· Negotiate and agree on outstanding matters within the Heads of Terms
· Grant a lease of 125 years for the land in the south-eastern part of the Regis Centre car park, including the former fire station
· Accept a surrender of the head lease of the Regis Centre building
· Accept the surrender of the sublease of the Alexandra Theatre
· Grant a new short-term lease for the pub/restaurant to Whitbread Plc
· Grant a new lease for the Alexandra theatre to Arun Arts
· Take any actions necessary consequential to the discussions taken above, in relation to expunging existing leases or granting new leases.
The meeting then returned to open business.