I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that agents representing PRLP, the operators of the Arndale Centre, have registered their opposition to the planning application for the regeneration of the Sovereign Harbour Retail Park (SHRP).
Although their argument is packed full of “planning speak”, and purports to have the best interests of Eastbourne at heart, nobody should have any doubt that this objection is nothing more than a cynical attempt to protect a vested interest and destroy competition..
Prudential, the operators of the SHRP, has shown its confidence in the local economy by committing £14 million to the regeneration of the facility, making it is ready to take the maximum advantage of the return to economic growth, when it happens.
If PRLP is so frightened that this investment will put it at a commercial disadvantage, then it should show a similar commitment to the town, and its people. A good start would be to drop this objection and spend its money instead on smartening up the Arndale Centre. The provision of free parking for customers wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
The objection suggests that this project could have a negative impact on the planned Town Centre regeneration, but there is no certainty that this development will go ahead. Even if it is ever started, it will take several years to complete and, during that period, the inevitable disruption it will cause will have a much greater negative impact on town centre shopping than the regeneration of the SHRP. Better to have a thriving retail park on the border of the borough to provide an alternative, than see shoppers taking their business to other towns, and possible never coming back.
However, there is a much more positive aspect of the proposed regeneration of the SHRP, which is far more important than the narrow commercial interests of PRLP. The regeneration of the SHRP will improve the sustainability of the Sovereign Harbour Neighbourhood, provide substantial improvements to the borough’s leisure and tourism offerings, and complement the existing facilities at the Sovereign Harbour Waterfront.
The provision of the long delayed cross harbour bus link will improve public transport links between the harbour and the town centre, reducing car journeys, but also contributing to the sustainability of the neighbourhood.
Prudential’s engagement of the community in every aspect of this application has been impeccable, and the public response to the plan, as expressed by the massive turn-out at the consultation event, was overwhelmingly in favour.
I hope the planning committee will reject this shabby objection, and take this golden opportunity to support both the Eastbourne economy and the future of the Sovereign Harbour neighbourhood.
Golden Gate Mews