Delight over Roffey refusal - but will Aquarena be left to stagnate?

WH 261014 Residents protest outside Aquarena site in Brighton Road against new Roffey development. Tim Loughton MP. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-141026-213100001
WH 261014 Residents protest outside Aquarena site in Brighton Road against new Roffey development. Tim Loughton MP. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-141026-213100001
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A COUNCILLOR who supported plans for a 21-storey tower block on Worthing seafront fears rejection of the proposals could leave the town lumbered with an ‘eyesore’ for decades.

Luke Proudfoot was one of two Worthing Borough Council planning committee members who did not vote against the Roffey Homes plans for the Aquarena site last Tuesday.

He said: “I believe that the Aquarena site now risks becoming a new Teville Gate – an eyesore that takes decades to be developed.

“I also fear that by not approving high density developments on brownfield land we risk losing our green and open spaces, like Goring Gap or the South Downs National Park, to development in the future.”

Mr Proudfoot, who was joined in the vote by committee chairman Kevin Jenkins, was outnumbered on the night, with five councillors voting to reject the plans.

The decision drew claps and cheers from a packed public gallery, mostly consisting of objectors.

David Clark, of the Save Worthing Seafront campaign group, said they did not want Worthing to be ‘dominated by high rise buildings’.

He said: “We are delighted with the refusal. What Roffey proposed was a poor solution for this site.”

Mr Clark said the group wanted a design which was a better fit with the council’s original design brief, which suggests any buildings should be between four and five storeys.

Although the document concedes a case may be made for higher towers, Mr Clark argued designs such as Roffey’s could not be considered in keeping with the environment.

He added: “The density should reflect suburban levels that can be well supported by Worthing’s infrastructure and it should add significantly to the Active Beach Zone for the benefit of local people and to attract visitors from outside.”

Roffey – which has previously delivered the Beach Residences, The Eardley, Vista Mare and other developments – has not confirmed whether it plans to appeal the decision.

But Selden ward councillor Keith Bickers, who spoke against the plans at the meeting, said the firm should come up with a more sympathetic design.

He said: “I think the decision was the right one based on the groundswell of opinion against it. They were not against development but the height of the tower block.

“Everybody is in favour of development and in acceptance it needs to be a fairly high density but I think the plans were overzealous.”

Campaigners regularly met outside the former swimming pool to protest against the plans.

They were joined in their objection by Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley and MP for East Worthing and Shoreham Tim Loughton, who said residents’ objections had been heard ‘loud and clear’.

“This was the wrong design in the wrong place and if it had gone through it would have represented a major lost opportunity for the continued regeneration of Worthing’s East Beach and set a dangerous precedent for making Worthing’s sea frontage ‘tower block central’,” he said.

“I hope that Roffey will listen carefully to the extensive criticism of their plans and come back with something much more in keeping with the conservation area, much less overbearing and a mixed use development which catches the imagination and attracts visitors and locals alike into Worthing’s neglected corner without relying on dressing up a 21-storey carbuncle as an iconic landmark.”