Agenda item



The Chair invited the Regeneration Consultant to provide members with an overview of his report.


          The Regeneration Consultant thanked the committee for hearing this item. He advised that a lot of work has been completed on the Ground Floor of the arcade of which businesses were now thriving. However, the upper floors had fallen into disrepair. He explained that the potential options before you are private rental options which would bring in the required revenue. He confirmed that the outline business case had unfortunately not been ready for this meeting however, the headlines of the business case were detailed within the report. He highlighted that the gross rents versus the running costs of the building, however confirmed that the finances still showed that the scheme would struggle and therefore grant funding was needed to address this. In summing up he confirmed that the BLF grant funding if successful would support 28/29 properties and a full business case was required to be submitted as part of the application process. The business case would incorporate the costs that the council were currently spending on maintenance and void costs. He advised that should the application be successful a further report would be brought back to either this committee, Policy & Finance or Full Council to lay out the business case detail. This report was requesting that members provide the authority needed to submit a bid application.


The Chair then asked members to make comment or ask any questions they had. Clarity was first sought regarding the correct name of the fund that was being referred to through the report as one member had googled ‘Brownfield Land Fund’ and could not find information on the grant under this description. However, he could find it under ‘Brownfield Land Release Fund’ (BLRF). It was confirmed by the Regeneration Consultant that this the correct name for the grant. Secondly it was then questioned if it had been agreed by the government that this building did meet the criteria for ‘Brownfield’. It was confirmed that it had a specialist consultant had been acquired by the council to complete the submission and that the council was applying for the third round of the fund which had a submission deadline date of 31 March 2023. It was hoped that if the council was successful with its application that the allocation of funds would be given approximately in September. Upon further questioning it was confirmed by the Regeneration Consultant and the Group Head of Business & Economy that One Public Estate had approached the Council regarding putting in a bid for the BLRF, they had visited the Arcade along with other sites and were supportive of moving the council’s application forward.


          As discussion continued to challenge the requirement to bring the report as an urgent item to members at this meeting of the committee along with concerns that members were not being allowed to review the business case ahead of the applications submission it was re-emphasised by officers and the Chair that all that was being asked of members tonight was to provide authority to officers so that a bid application could be submitted before the application deadline. Due to the Elections in May 2023, there were no further scheduled opportunities for this committee to meet to review the application prior to the submission deadline. It was also reconfirmed that the business case that would be submitted with the application submission would be shared with members as soon as it was received and there would be an opportunity for members to comment on this when a future report was brought to the Committee in the next civic year,   


          There were questions raised regarding the specific plans for the roof terrace, the units on the ground floor next to no. 10 (currently the BID office) and the management plan in place to manage the properties that would be in place should the plans be executed as it. It was confirmed that the some of the roof terraces were already there and that the remaining flat roofs would be converted to roof terraces for the other planned flats that currently do not have outdoor space on the plan. Regarding the office space at no. 10, the plan was to add an additional 2 floors on top of this space, to potentially include a café, it was confirmed that the options were still being discussed regarding whether this would require a complete rebuild or not. In terms of managing the spaces created, again all option were still being considered, however one option would be for the council to consider a partnership with another person/body and this detail would be part of the next stages presented to the Committee.  


          It was asked if consideration had been given to these potential residential properties becoming part of the social housing stock. It was confirmed that this option had been explored with the Housing Team but was found to not be a suitable build for that purpose, this would also be detailed in the next report. 


          Discussion then returned to the opportunity to have a Special meeting of the committee to have a full report including the business case be reviewed by Members prior to the application submission deadline. Some members were uncomfortable that the business case formed part of the application process and not being able to comment or make changes to this was not something they wanted to do. The Chair reemphasised that although 7 weeks seemed like enough time for an additional meeting to be organised and held, this in terms of practicalities of the work that goes on behind this process it was not.


          It was then proposed by Councillor Walsh and seconded by Councillor Dixon that members do not take a decision on this tonight, and we wait for the business case to be reported to a special meeting of the committee before the grant application closed on 31 March 2023. It was confirmed by the Committee Manager that a date for a special meeting could not be provided at the meeting as this would need to be discussed with other officers, however she could confirm that there was very few options available in terms of dates for a special meeting, due to the amount of business the council is required to complete ahead of the Pre-Election period on 20 March 2023. One member then requested that it be clarified that the proposal on the table if agreed would mean that should a date for a special meeting not be possible ahead of the grant submission cut off date, that it would be the committee would miss the opportunity to apply for the grant. The Chair confirmed that this was correct and then requested that the proposal be put to the vote. Upon the vote being taken it fell to the Chair’s casting vote in which he vote against the proposal and therefore the proposal fell.


Before the Chair invite non-committee members to make comment and ask questions it was asked if there were any additional costs involved with the application submission. It was confirmed that there were no additional costs as it was already fully funded. Non-committee members raised questions regarding the condition of the flat roof and that it was in a state that required repairs and would that be funded from the grant if the application was successful. It was confirmed that there were two roofing projects that were being progressed by the council currently and that these were being funded through the asset management fund. There was an additional question asked regarding the possibility of a glass roof being considered, however it was confirmed that there was no project at the current time that would encompass the glass roof.  Confirmation was then requested that given the business case would not be seen by committee members ahead of the application being submitted, would this fact be made clear within the application. The Regeneration Consultant confirmed that it would be made very clear, he also confirmed that the amount of monies the council may be awarded if successful with its bid was not yet determined and that whatever was offered would need to ensure it was a large enough sum to be cost effective and if this was not the case, then the council made need to look for further grant funding to help.


In drawing the discussion to its conclusion, the Chair reemphasised that members would see the business plan and would be able to make comment via email to the Regeneration Consultant and that at a future meeting of the committee a report containing the business plan would be brought to members for their review, should the application be successful and before any further steps were taken. Some further additional comments were made by members of the committee and the Vice-Chair of which all supported the Chair’s comments on the next steps for this item.


          The recommendations were then proposed by Councillor Cooper and seconded by Councillor Gunner.


          The Committee




2.1. approved the submission of a grant funding application to the Brownfield Land Fund in respect of the Bognor Regis Arcade, and;


2.2. delegates to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Chair of the Economy Committee, the authority to prepare and submit the grant funding application.