A SCI-FI store owner has expressed his disappointment at failing to gain approval for use of the south pavilion of Worthing Pier, despite attracting support from a 500-strong customer petition.
Alex Scutt, of Type 40 Toys in Rowlands Road, had proposed a toy museum for the vacant site – which has raised concerns after being empty for more than two years.
But following his approach for use of the landmark building, he was told he did not have a sufficiently developed business plan and that there were presently no alternative sites for his venture.
Another key bidder for the south pavilion is artist and entrepreneur Dan Thompson, who proposed plans for a mixed-use arts centre and café, which he felt would help regenerate Worthing’s hard-hit night-time economy.
Mr Scutt said: “The idea of creating a toy museum just seemed like a “no-brainer“ to me. It was about creating something different to draw people into the town.
“I’ve had so many people sign the petition for it, with around 500 so far and that is just those who have come into the shop.
“The pier would not need that much work doing to it. Before I opened here, I used to be in the building profession, so I am sure I could have made the necessary repairs.
“But I was asking for the first year free of rent with it as it would have taken some time for that work to have been done, but they would not agree.
“Before Christmas I was told there may have been around five properties that could have been suitable for me, but now it seems that there are none, unless I had around £30,000 to put into a business.
“The toy museum definitely could have worked, as I have experience dealing with around 18 or 19 shows a year and organised the Strange New Worlds sci-fi event. So many people said they would help me out with this.”
Bryan Turner, the borough council member responsible for regeneration, said there had been some viable proposals put forward for use of the building.
Having been previously used for decades as a nightclub, its last owners failed to gain renewal of its licence due to incidents of violence at the venue, which prompted police to recommend its closure.
Mr Turner said: “The south pavilion might have been suitable for Mr Scutt, but we could not take it forward without a detailed business plan, which he did not have and I’ve advised him on that. But at present, we don’t have any other properties available.
“We have held a marketing campaign since last August and have had around 12 expressions of interest. I think we will be able to take at least one or more of those forward. I’ve advised that we give them a month to prepare further business plans.”