Green light for Aquarena tower after MP’s call-in bid rejected

Plans for the Aquarena
Plans for the Aquarena

The green light has been given to Worthing’s tallest tower block after an MP’s call for the Government to intervene failed.

Roffey Homes will now be able to progress with its redevelopment of the Aquarena site, in Brighton Road.

Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee voted in favour of Roffey’s plans in January but the final decision was held after Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley asked the Government for a call-in.

Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell today confirmed the plans would not be reviewed by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Sir Peter said: “This is not a decision I would have expected the minister to make. It will be a disappointment to many who care about the townscape and coastal views of Worthing.”

Roffey’s plans include a 15-storey tower block, seafront square and beachfront café.

The designs followed a previous rejected of a scheme which included a 21-storey tower.

More than 2,000 residents signed a petition against the proposals.

In requesting a call-in, Sir Peter told the Herald he believed the decision should not be made by the council as it had an interest in the site.

He said: “Worthing Borough Council has an interest in as much development as possible because they are selling the site. They have a tentative agreement to sell the site to developers when planning permission is granted.

“I believe the appropriate person to decide whether the total number of apartments is right should be the secretary of state after an inspector’s inquiry.”

In a letter to the MP, Mr Barwell said he was happy for the decision to be made at local level.

He said: “We remain committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues and believe that planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.

“The call-in policy makes it clear that the power to call-in a case will only be used very selectively.”

Roffey managing director Ben Cheal said locally-elected councillors had made an informed decision and he welcomed the rejection of a call-in.

He said: “We are naturally very pleased that the minister has rejected the request made to scrutinise our regeneration proposals for the Aquarena site. The minister agreed that Worthing Council planning committee’s decision should rightfully stand, as it was a local issue that should be decided by local democracy.

“The Worthing planning officers recommended the scheme be approved and the locally-elected councillors made an informed decision based on this after a considered debate.

“The regeneration scheme will deliver huge benefits to the town, including badly-needed affordable homes, and we look forward to starting work as soon as possible.”

The committee supported Roffey’s plans by a majority of six to one.

Councillor Edward Crouch, who voted for the plans, welcomed the rejection of the call-in request.

He said: “Localism has won the day. This should have never been called-in and I am delighted with the outcome.”

“Worthing needs to get behind major projects like this and seize investment that drives our town forward.”

“The time for small-town nimbyism is dead and there is a quiet majority of people who will be breathing a sigh of relief that this site is not destined to be another local embarrassment”