A 29-flat seafront development, which rises to a height of eight storeys, was given the go ahead by Worthing’s planning committee last night.
The proposed development by Roffey Homes, destined for the corner of Grand Avenue and West Parade, was approved after six councillors voted in favour of the plans and two against at a meeting in Worthing Town Hall.
Last year, previous plans for the site by the same developers – which included an 11 storey tower – were opposed by hundreds of residents and judged by a planning inspector to be ‘unduly assertive in the landscape’.
Officer Peter Davenport acknowledged the previous scheme was ‘the elephant in the room’ but while he noted ‘significant similarities’ between the two, he said there were ‘substantial differences’ to the new buiding’s height and mass.
“It is no longer a landmark building,” he said. “It doesn’t scream for attention.”
However, a remaining ‘area of contention’ was the building line of the proposed block, which Mr Davenport said still did ‘encroach’ by standing 10.5m infront of neighbouring Regis Court in West Parade.
This issue was also raised by two members of the public who spoke against the application.
David Sawyers, representing the Worthing Society, said although the scheme was much improved. this ‘step forward’ would be ‘very apparent’ from Regis Court and would dominate the street scene.
Phil Abbott, of the Protect Worthing Seafront campaign group, agreed that maintaining the building line was ‘fundamental and not ancillary’.
But the developers considered it was appropriate for the building to step forward half-way towards Marine Point, the other neighbouring building which sits around 21 metres infront of Regis Court.
Another key concern raised was the lack of affordable housing.
While nine affordable housing units would normally be expected from such a development, an independent audit confirmed the developers’ findings that this was not viable.
Councillor Yallop said: “I accept the calculations somewhat reluctantly. It’s a great shame.”
Mr Devonport said the council was ‘disappointed’ but confirmed the applicants had agreed to ‘clawback’ any additional profit towards the affordable housing requirement.
Counillor Crouch, who described the design as ‘unimaginative, bland and reminiscent of my halls of residence at university’, wondered whether the developers might be ‘pushing their luck’ in terms of what was an ‘acceptable profit’.
But James Appleton, head of planning, pointed out the developers had cited a notional profit of 15 per cent, which was below the market norm of 20 per cent, and confirmed: “This is a scheme which can’t afford affordable housing.”
Councillor Diane Guest said the clawback commitment was ‘really encourgaing’ and hoped it would set a precedent for future developers.
Bean Cheal from Roffey Homes admitted the company had ‘got it wrong last time’ but said the number of objections to the new plan had reduced by 90 per cent.
He assured he was aware of housing concerns in the area.
“I’m a local employer, investing in local people,” he said.
“My employees have made me fully aware of the struggle to find decent housing.”
While relevant non-sensitive parts of the viability report had been shared, the full report with commercially sensitive information was restricted to a confidential part of the meeting to which members of the public were excluded.
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