County councillor’s vision for Worthing town centre

James Doyle is campaigning for improvements in the town centre

James Doyle is campaigning for improvements in the town centre

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A COUNTY councillor is putting forward an innovative strategy to revive the fortunes of Worthing town centre’s hard-hit central shopping areas.

Green Party county councillor James Doyle is calling on West Sussex County Council and Worthing Borough Council to team up with town centre management to revive retail fortunes.

His plea comes in the wake of major stores entering administration or closing including HMV, Comet, Jessops and Blockbuster.

Mr Doyle, who represents Worthing Pier division, has come up with four key priorities including attempting to secure funding for significant street-scene improvement for Montague Street and the West End.

He is also proposing to forge a “virtual high street” in which traders could band together under the banner of an internet app in a bid to counter growing competition from internet-based companies.

The idea has already met with approval, as Worthing Town Centre Initiative (TCI) has agreed to take the concept forward.

Mr Doyle believed among the most pressing issues was securing business training and support for independent companies within the area, as was acting on the level of empty shops.

He said: “We all need to work together on this and put some pressure on the county council to assist with improving the town.

“Our councils needs to work with retailers and we need to deal with some of the landlords in the area – who can no longer expect to be making some of the financial returns they have previously been gaining on properties.

“Some pension-fund owned properties have been making up to £30,000 a year in rent. The TCI has its role to play on this as well and I’ve heard back from its chairman Chris Spratt who has said it intends to go ahead with the virtual Worthing plan.”

Bryan Turner, councillor responsible for regeneration in Worthing, highlighted the fact that Worthing traders had recently voted to continue with its Business Improvement District, which will see £1million invested in the area over the next five years.

But he believed business rates and rents were two of the biggest factors affecting retail.