SENIOR councillors from both Worthing and Adur authorities have moved to quash concerns the area may become official suburbs of Brighton.
Paul Yallop and Neil Parkin have responded to fears surrounding a Brighton and Hove City Council “City Deals” bid for potential Government funding worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
In order to qualify for the financial support, the city had to present a population of 500,000, which brought Worthing, Goring, Shoreham and Lewes within its economic boundaries under the banner of “Greater Brighton”.
This week, the bid, which could provide funding for transport and infrastructure improvements, was taken forward by Government for full consideration.
However, with no formal discussions having yet happened in either Worthing or Adur councils, concerns emerged over whether economic partnership could lead to further council mergers – which councillors have denied. It is hoped the project could help schemes such as the ongoing redevelopment of Shoreham Harbour.
The bid was greeted as a strong opportunity by Peter Bennett, of Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce. However, Worthing entrepreneur and artist Dan Thompson felt the town “too often looked in awe” at Brighton. In his opinion, he felt Worthing should be seeking city status in its own right and that a public referendum would be required if any moves were put forward for the creation of a “Greater Brighton.”
He said: “I understand there have been three informal meetings on this, but it doesn’t seem the area has had any kind of ownership of it. We have found it hard enough to get funding for the area from West Sussex County Council without things like this.
“I am also concerned as we’ve already seen Shoreham Airport become Brighton airport.”
Responding, Mr Yallop stated he was “100 per cent against” any prospect of Worthing and Adur moving towards becoming Greater Brighton.
He explained that he had taken a pragmatic approach in signalling the council’s interest in the scheme, which he said had been influenced by a short deadline by the government.
He said: “The City Deals scheme has a narrow remit as far as I am concerned and that is an economic one.
“Along with the Local Enterprise Partnership schemes, City Deals seems to be the way forward for means of gaining funding.
“Brighton City leader Jason Kitcat has also said he respects the autonomy of other councils involved in this.”
Bryan Turner, Worthing borough councillor responsible for regeneration, also welcomed the prospect of the City Deal being taken forward. He did not believe there would be any threat to the identity of the Worthing and Shoreham area in putting forward such bids under the guise of “Greater Brighton”.
He said: “This is a good thing for the area as the funding from it could be put towards things like the A27 improvements and other infrastructure. It may also be money for other areas including learning and skills.
This is the second wave of the project, which so far has seen more than 17 billion pounds being delivered to other areas of the country.”
Neil Parkin, leader of Adur District Council, said: “Through this we are going to be able to bid for not only national, but European funding as well.
“A Greater Brighton is not something we want, nor would Brighton, being run by a minority Green Party. It could not control our councils anyway, as that is not possible across county boundaries.”
However, borough councillor Alan Rice, Worthing’s Liberal Democrat leader said he would be seeking assurances from the council on whether the area would become Greater Brighton.
He said: “In order for Brighton and City Hove Council to go ahead with its city deals it has had to include Worthing and we hope to gain from this. But it would be regrettable if Worthing were to become part of a Greater Brighton.
It’s something we have historically seen happen here in Worthing, with Broadwater becoming part of Worthing. I can definitely understand people’s concerns over retaining their identity and it seems with this it seems that residents are the last to know that it’s actually happening.”