‘Ambitious’ plans for the regeneration of Bognor Regis were backed by councillors on Monday (February 27).
Early-stage concepts to transform the Regis Centre and Hothamton car park drew comparisons to Singapore, Torquay and Kew Gardens as Arun district councillors considered them for the first time.
Consultants presented the Bognor Regis regeneration sub-committee with two options for each site, with councillors asked to back their preference.
Chairman Phil Hitchins said: “Hopefully this will stand out from the crowd.
“This is something totally different for Bognor Regis so we will be the only people on the south coast doing something like this.”
Simon Davis, of consultants Urban Delivery, presented the options for each site.
For the Regis Centre site, councillors supported the idea of creating a 3,000 square metre winter gardens – an undercover attraction featuring a new, larger theatre, exhibition and performance space.
A decked car park, hotel,apartments, restaurants, café, refurbished gardens along the Esplanade and improved access to the beach were also potential additions.
Mr Davis said the likes of Premier Inn could be attracted to the development – but a report to councillors noted family attractions like Sealife were unlikely to express interest.
He said the wider vision for the site was ‘gardens by the sea’, a play on Singapore’s ‘Gardens by the Bay’, while the winter gardens would be an all-year round facility which could be ‘anything you want it to be’.
The concept, which could cost in excess of £50million, was preferred to a smaller-scale option which included a smaller winter gardens and refurbishment of the existing theatre.
The council could revert to the latter option if the preferred scheme proved unviable.
Arun leader Gill Brown said: “It is nice to see proposals that are as ambitious as this for the town. We have all waited for that.”
For Hothamton, the committee supported the creation of a linear park, which could include informal performance areas, market space, water features and coffee shops.
Mr Davis said: “When Bognor Regis wins the FA Cup, is this the place that people go to?”
New buildings could incorporate residential and retail uses, while officers will enter discussions with the health centre over the potential to incorporate it into the design.
Urban Delivery suggested there was potential for taller buildings – but not as high as the 17-storey Fitzleet House.
The committee authorised officers to explore the projects in more detail, including funding sources and how development would be delivered.
Officers will also talk to West Sussex County Council about possible changes to the road network along the seafront.
They will also discuss the future of the town hall with Bognor Regis Town Council.
The Regis Centre masterplan suggested converting the civic facility into a hotel.
But Liberal Democrat councillors Francis Oppler and Paul Wells expressed reservations.
“You could be storing yourself up for an almighty battle that is not necessary,” Mr Oppler said.