The Chair of the Policy & Finance Committee, Councillor Stanley, will present recommendations from the meeting of the Policy & Finance Committee to be held on 11 July 2023.
The minutes from this meeting will be circulated separately with recommendations being reported to Full Council via those minutes.
The Chair of the Policy and Finance Committee, Councillor Stanley, presented recommendations from the meeting of the Policy and Finance Committee held on 11 July 2023.
Councillor Stanley alerted Members to the first set of recommendations at Minute 132 [Economy Committee – 13 June 2023 – Minute 59 [Bognor Regis Arcade Floor Refurbishment[ which he formally proposed. The recommendations were then seconded by Councillor Nash.
In debating the recommendations concern was expressed over the £8m project costs with some Members confirming that they could not support what they saw as being an unviable financial commitment for the Council representing a £25k a year loss. Concerns were also expressed over the quality and standard of housing that would be provided under this scheme.
Those speaking in support of the recommendations reminded Members what the Arcade represented which was an integral part of Bognor Regis’ heritage and so it was vitally important to local residents that the council was seen to be supporting and investing in this site. Members were also reminded of the income received for the whole site. A fully redeveloped arcade would command higher rentals and would present a wider profit. Alternative options were not viable which was to sell at a loss. The Council needed sustainable alternatives to prevent the continuing drain on council finances and these proposals presented these.
Members were reminded that the proposals presented the council with -another chance to improve Bognor Regis working alongside other projects that had been successfully completed such as The Place St Maur and the LUF project moving forward for the Regis Centre.
The council’s Regeneration Consultant explained what the other options outlined in the report meant for the council.
Councillor Nash, as seconder of the recommendations, confirmed that he had been delighted to receive the report. This was because the Bognor Regis Arcade was an iconic building in Bognor Regis loved by its residents. The council had taken the decision to purchase it in 2017 and now had the responsibility of maintaining it ensuring that residents received a good return on the investment made.
Councillor Stanley, as the proposer of the recommendations, reassured Members that the recommendations did present sound financial management ensuring that very thorough checks and balances had been undertaken throughout the whole process. The Council’s external auditors, Ernst & Young had also confirmed that they were very happy with financial situation of the council. The proposals for the arcade represented the need to think about the wider impacts. This was a landmark site that would add to the economic prosperity of the town whilst also providing much needed housing [35 houses] to those that needed them most and on a brownfield site. This also formed part of the Council’s vision which Members had supported.
A recorded vote on the recommendations had been requested. Those voting for were Councillors Ayling, Batley, Birch, Blanchard-Cooper, Brooks, Butcher, Goodheart, Hamilton, Harty, Haywood, Huntley, Jones, Lawrence, Long, Lury, May, McDougall, Nash, Needs, Northeast, O’Neill, Oppler, Penycate, Stanley, Tandy, Wallsgrove, Walsh, Warr, Wiltshire, Woodman, Mrs Worne, Miss Worne and Yeates (33). Those voting against were Councillors Bower, Cooper, Mrs Cooper, Edwards, Elkins, English, Greenway, Gunner, Kelly, Lloyd, Partridge, Patel, Pendleton, Purser and Turner (15). Councillors Bicknell and Mrs Bower abstained from voting (2).
The Council, therefore
RESOLVED – That
(1) The project cost of £7,991.069 (including the Brownfield Land Release Fund grant (BLRF) be added to the capital programme;
(2) The Council accept the BLRF fund grant if it is offered; and
(3) Delegated authority is given to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Section 151 Officer and the Chair of the Economy Committee, to deliver the project including selection of the appropriate delivery vehicle, subject to regular updates being presented to the Economy Committee.
Councillor Stanley then drew Members’ attention to the final recommendation at Minute 132 [Economy Committee – 13 June 2023 – Minute 66 – Waterloo Square] which he formally proposed. The recommendations were then seconded by Councillor Nash.
Following short debate, the seconder to the recommendations, Councillor Nash, confirmed that this was a prime site in Bognor Regis that had remained derelict for 7-8 years. There was now the opportunity to develop the site and so he urged Councillors to support the recommendation so that the project could be pushed forward.
To approve borrowing of £1million from the Public Loans Work board to fund the purchase of the leases and this to be added to the capital programme.