PLANS to build a new cinema and theatre at St Martin’s car park in Littlehampton have been scrapped – much to the disappointment of councillors.
Arun District Council had commissioned consultants Turner & Townsend to conduct a feasibility study into the car park – which many residents had hoped could be redeveloped into a prize leisure facility for the town.
However, the consultants scuppered these hopes by saying the site was not financially viable to support a new leisure facility.
Speaking during a Littlehampton regeneration sub-committee meeting, last week, county, district and town councillor Dr James Walsh said: “To say that I’m disappointed would be a gross understatement.
“To have had hopes raised and then dashed by being told that everything we had on our wish list was impossible is a bitter blow.
“It’s not helped by a throwaway line saying that we should redevelop the Windmill site because we all know what that means.
“It means flats or houses or hotel or a combination of that to pay for something else at St Martin’s car park to bridge the gap.”
He said St Martin’s was an ‘obvious place’ to put a replacement cinema and theatre.
However, the consultants’ report said having a new cinema proposal in the town could jeopardise the ‘finely balanced negotiations’ for the St Modwen leisure development in nearby Bognor Regis, which is anchored by its own cinema.
Dr Walsh said this meant Littlehampton’s future cinema provision was being ‘sacrificed on the altar’ of having a second cinema at Bognor.
However, this does not mean a new cinema and theatre for Littlehampton is entirely off the cards.
But councillors did voice their anger over the number of consultants Arun had paid to look at the site, and others elsewhere, with this latest study costing fractionally more than £28,000.
Dr Walsh said: “In local government it seems we are spending money on reports, reports and more reports and not ending up with any bricks or mortar.
“The same thing happened with the 106 money for the hospital site being gobbled up by consultancy and the same thing’s now happening here.”
Littlehampton mayor councillor Joyce Bowyer agreed, saying it ‘worried her’ that cash was being wasted on numerous consultations.
The committee pledged not to use the remaining £68,000 from the budget allocated to a St Martin’s development study on further consultants.
For the full story and to find out about the future of Littlehampton’s new cinema and theatre complex, see this week’s Gazette (Thursday, April 10).