Give these buildings a chance: SAVE issues open plea to Council to delay demolition of Bognor Regis seaside heritage

Bognor Regis

2-4 Waterloo Square in Bognor Regis, demolition preparation has now started (image: SAVE)

SAVE Britain's Heritage has issued a direct appeal to the chief executive of Arun District Council to halt the imminent demolition of two historic seaside buildings in a conservation area. Arun District Council issued a demolition order on 15 January 2019 on the grounds that the buildings are at risk of being occupied by squatters, and therefore on health and safety grounds must be demolished. 

We are extremely concerned that the Council is bypassing normal planning permission rules - including a proper assessment of the impact on the conservation area or other planning considerations. We are asking for a delay to demolition for 7 days so that we can send an engineer specialised in historic buildings to independently assess the structure and safety of the buildings.

A company called B5 Ltd, the leaseholders of the buildings, has declined our approach to make contact with them. The next door Victorian 'Beach Hotel', also leased by B5 Ltd burnt down in a fire in November 2016. 

A planning application submitted in July 2018 for the total demolition of these buildings attracted widespread objections - including from the Council's own conservation officer and some local Councillors. It has yet to be determined and now is superseded by the demolition order. 

There are many questions surrounding the demolition that remain unanswered - in the interests of transparency and good governance we await an urgent response from the chief executive. Here is our letter issued today:

Mr Nigel Lynn
Chief Executive
Arun District Council

18 February 2019



Dear Mr Lynn,

I have received a steady stream of emails and messages from citizens of Bognor Regis very concerned about the imminent demolition of two prominent seaside historic houses in a conservation area, including both town and district councillors.

All of them are deeply disturbed at the peremptory way you and your fellow officers are dealing with this matter. The message we are receiving is simple and clear - give these two prominent conservation area buildings a chance. These charming turn of the century buildings tell the story of Bognor's past and present, and are an important part of the town's history. They require investment to bring them back into viable use, not a bulldozer. 

As the Council is the freeholder of the two buildings, we urge you in the name of your own concerned citizens and your own heritage to put a halt to demolition for 7 days to allow a proper discussion of this situation which should never have unfolded as it has.

You claim these buildings must be demolished under health and safety rules to prevent squatters entering. You claim this justifies ignoring conservation area protection rules.

Our engineer Edward Morton, of Morton & Partners, leading specialists in historic building stabilisation and repair, points out that you or your tenants have allowed builders in to strip the buildings ready for demolition so there is no justification for refusing our engineers access. They will be happy to sign a disclaimer for any liability to the council for them in entering the building. We have offered to pay for this visit at our own cost.

They point out, in terms of danger to squatters, that squatters broke in at the end of 2018 - so why is it only now that the council is saying it is critical? If you are so concerned could you not have stated that the leaseholder (or the Council) should employ site security (a guard) to prevent access until the matters are resolved? Less expensive is CCTV monitoring. This is normally a sufficient deterrent. Why have you not considered this?

B5 Ltd, the leaseholders of the buildings, has declined our approach to make contact with them. The next door Victorian 'Beach Hotel' very unfortunately burnt down in a fire in November 2016. The leaseholder of this site also appears to be B5 Ltd, and the council is also the freeholder.

There are many questions around these buildings that remain unanswered. In the interests of transparency and robust governance we call upon Arun District Council to halt demolition for 7 days to allow proper due diligence to take place. Once these buildings are demolished there is no turning back.

I look forward to hearing from you, as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely,

Marcus Binney
 CBE Hon FRIBA
Executive President, SAVE Britain's Heritage

Ends.

Note to editors
1. For more information please contact SAVE on 020 7253 3500 or office@savebritainsheritage.org