The final decision to close Worthing ’s Comet store Teville Gate has thrown a renewed spotlight on the delayed £150million redevelopment of the site
Despite administrators battling to find an eleventh-hour buyer for the company which had been in the town for more than 20 years, no solution appears to have emerged and all its shops within the county are now set to close.
With the demise of the leading electrical retailer in the area, there is just one firm remaining at Teville Gate - which has now endured more than 15 years of uncertainty over a series of regeneration plans.
Developers Hanson Capital Management recently confirmed commitment to delivering its ambitious scheme, which had been scheduled to commence in the second half of this year.
The company’s Worthing Gateway project gained approval from the borough council in October last year. It was greeted with broad support with a series of public consultations, with the scheme containing plans for 226 new homes boasting a centrepiece twin-tower design, a 9 screen cinema, a 100-bedroom hotel, restaurant facilities, plus conference and exhibition centre. Parking for more than 900 cars was also included.
Consequently, initial ground testing works were carried out on the site in January which pointed to its emergence on schedule, with cinema operators Vue being the first company confirmed as a partner in the development.
But continued economic turbulence has been blamed for delays for securing the scheme, which borough planners acknowledged had only narrowly passed economic viability tests last year.
Concerns have grown as the website for the project has not been updated since before the scheme was put to planners early in 2011. It was originally thought demolition work on the site would begin this autumn.
However, some progress has been reported as the developers are in the process of submitting a legal agreement with the council this month, which adds to its initial application last year.
This would provide a major boost to the area, with a total of £2million pounds being paid to the council for target community improvement projects including improving the public realm surrounding Worthing station and the immediate area of the development.
James Appleton, the executive head of planning at Worthing Borough Council confirmed there had been a delay to the scheme, but remained optimistic that it would be delivered.
He said: “There has been a delay in granting planning permission as the owner of the site has been negotiating with potential operators and looking in detail at the overall scheme viability.
“However, the owner/applicant has recently submitted a draft legal agreement (s106) and has emphasised commitment to develop the site. The legal agreement would seek contributions towards affordable housing (off site), transport and education as well as public realm improvements of just over £2million.
The Herald approached developers for comment on a renewed timetable for the scheme, but they have declined to respond further.