A major new housing development to include some shopping and perhaps even a hotel could be built on the site of Worthing’s Grafton car park.
A report by officers of Worthing Borough Council says building new homes is important to help revitalise the town centre bringing new people in to help spark new life, cultural and leisure activities.
A fresh study has recommended new homes be key to the prime seafront site. The car park is currently undergoing essential maintenance to be able to keep it open in the short term but the recommendation is that it eventually be demolished to make way for the new development.
The Council has pledged to ensure that car parking remains sufficient for the town centre with multi million pound refurbishments of the existing car parks, such as Buckingham Road and High Street. In the advent of the demolition of Grafton, the Council wants to upgrade car parks at Civic Centre and Lyndhurst Road to ensure there are close to the 1,800 council-owned spaces currently provided.
The Council now wants to seek private sector partners who might be interested in a long term project to transform the site. Officers will continue to work closely with LCR, the blue-chip government owned development company with which it has joined forces to develop a plan for Union Place. It is hoped LCR will use their development experience in delivering complex sites to progress the Grafton development.
To recognise the changing face of Britain’s town centres the Council is backing a mixed policy of supporting retail but also encouraging more residents, leisure and business opportunities into the town centre.
The report says officers are tackling a number of issues including needing to work with residents of nearby Knightsbridge House tenants who have parking rights and with existing retail tenants who may have to vacate to allow development.
In addition the reports says positive discussions have been started with Marks and Spencer which backs onto the site and AMF Bowling which have been described as ‘productive’. The bowling centre might either be accommodated on the new site or elsewhere but, says the report, has reaffirmed its commitment to Worthing.
To bring the project forward and contribute further to securing the long term vibrancy of the town centre the Council is prepared to soak up losses in revenue of around £800,000 from rental and car park income which will be spread over three years. When a developer is found and all the finance put in place the project is expected to begin in late 2021.
Councillor Dan Humphreys, Leader of Worthing Borough Council, said: “This and other projects coming on stream such as Union Place and our demolition of Teville car park prove we are doing our utmost to create a thriving, dynamic and robust town centre filled with new residents which will do much to revitalise the place. We are thinking of the future bringing in top-level investors and partners who like us believe in this town and its people.”
Councillor Kevin Jenkins, Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration,, said: “We recognise that town centres are changing and that the need to bring people back to live in our town centres is desirable to bring new life and activity. That is why we are exploring this plan for Grafton. It is a fantastic location on which to build homes and some retail.
“Obviously there is a long way to go and we have to ensure our car park plan can still meet the demands of those wanted to drive to our town centre and seafront. However you can tell from the fact that the Council is prepared to make a financial contribution in the short term that we are committed long term to creating a dynamic and vibrant town.”
At the end of last year in partnership with LCR the Council announced plans for nearly 200 homes, commercial space and two extra cinema screens for the Connaught Theatre as the preferred option for the former police station site at Union Place.