Interview: Denise Vine at Arun District Council

Fri 23rd January 2015, 9:48 am

In an exclusive interview, Denise Vine, economic development manager at Arun District Council, talks about her role in regenerating this part of West Sussex.

Denise Vine, economic development manager at Arun District Council

Which projects are you most proud of being involved in?

Enterprise Bognor Regis – the premier commercial development opportunity in coastal west Sussex and where Rolls-Royce motors cars has just started to build its 30,000sq m Technology and Logistics Centre.

I was involved in the first meetings with Rolls-Royce and the council in January 2014, when they were making initial enquiries about potential sites in the district. My role was to support the identification of suitable sites and maintain liaison and communication between the council and Rolls-Royce to progress the proposal. Ten months later they started on-site. This was an amazingly quick implementation, due to the hard work of my planning colleagues and the commitment and drive of the landowners.

What three developments or enhancements would most benefit Arun?

The redevelopment of the Regis Centre site on the seafront at Bognor Regis. This is a prime site next to the beach that is ideally suited to a mixed-use development, which would include residential, leisure facilities, restaurants and a hotel.

The expansion of the University of Chichester’s Bognor Regis campus, where there are plans to establish a new £15 million, 4,000sq m Engineering and Digital Technology Centre. This ambitious development will be part of a wider investment programme, including additional student accommodation.

The continued development of Enterprise Bognor Regis. This is 70ha of mostly ready-to-develop prime commercial land superbly situated in coastal west Sussex. An application for Enterprise Zone status for the site is being considered by central government. If agreed, this would provide business-rate holidays and discounts to new businesses locating on the site.

Which three developments outside Arun do you most admire and why?

The Gunwharf Quays/Spinnaker Tower scheme in Portsmouth. This is an imaginative, ambitious and high-quality development that has helped changed the fortunes of the city. Gunwharf Quays is built on a former disused Ministry Of Defence site adjacent to Portsmouth Harbour, which had been closed off from the public for hundreds of years. As the navy and defence industry has reduced in size, Portsmouth has had to diversify and become less dependent on this single sector.

Gunwharf is now a very successful retail outlet and leisure destination which offers over 90 shops and 30 restaurants and attracts visitors and shoppers from across the region and the UK. Spinnaker Tower was an ambitious and unique project that has become a well-recognised landmark - not just to the visitors to Gunwharf but also the three million passengers who use ferries which pass it each year on their way to France and Spain. It is often used as a backdrop on local television, which further enforces this image and its association with Portsmouth. It has brought significant economic benefits to the city, well beyond the cost to build it, and helped to change the city’s identity.

The Olympic Park is also a vast project and an amazing achievement.

The Roman Baths in the city of Bath – a brilliant mix of ancient building and modern museum – so cleverly thought out and designed.

What was your first impression of Arun when you started out working there?

The large number of deliverable development opportunities and sites – both commercial and housing – the area had to offer in comparison to the rest of coastal West Sussex and south Hampshire. Lots of untapped potential.

Also the significant steps forward to gain funding for major infrastructure improvements such as £27 million for the new Bognor Northern Relief Road and viaduct, which will open later this year. Other major transport improvements are also coming forward, such as the recent announcement for improvements to the A27 and the Arundel bypass.

What things have surprised you about working in the district?

How many good development sites – without significant constraints – that the district has to offer.

The quality of life and beauty of the area.

The great partnerships and enthusiasm to progress and improve the district.

What makes developers good partners?

A flexible approach to development and a willingness to deliver what is right for the local community, as well as their investors.

When people find out you work in Arun, what are the most common things they ask?

"Where’s that?" I reply that it covers Bognor Regis, Littlehampton, Arundel and some truly beautiful coastal areas and countryside including part of the South Downs.

If you could change one thing about working in Arun, what would it be?

To live closer to my job – I have a 35 mile commute each day. But the train journey is very scenic so that is a bonus.

Which three people have inspired you the most – either at work or in your personal life?

Lots of people – too many to mention. But it is those that are hardworking, have integrity and are kind and caring to those around them that I admire the most and aspire to be like.

If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go and why?

America – I’ve never been there and it is such a vast and diverse country that I would love to visit it. The Grand Canyon and white water rafting would be my first stop.

Which book has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

My passion is history and I think we can learn so much from events of the past – politics, wars, the monarchy, influential people. So although I couldn’t name one book I would say history is my biggest influence.

When did your most memorable meeting take place and what made it so special?

I was working on a European project and we had a meeting of the transnational partners in Turku, Finland. We met in the local council offices in a place called Naantali (home of the Moomins!) and the council chamber had its own sauna (which I declined to use when offered).

What is your favourite gadget and why?

iPhone, of course!

What is your biggest professional achievement?

I worked on a programme called Future Jobs Fund that helped 700 young and unemployed people find work. I met some fantastic young people and felt the project had made a positive contribution to their lives. It was very rewarding.

For more exclusive interviews with senior officers and councillors from London's local authority's, visit the borough profiles on the Sitematch London website. 

Arun District Council will attend the upcoming Sitematch London event on 10 February 2015. To secure your place contact Sophie Gosling on 020 7978 6840, or by emailing sophie@3foxinternational.com.

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