Felling the sycamore trees at Montague Centre is a big mistake

The Montague Centre Planning Application was approved by the Planning Committee last Wednesday evening, 29 June.

This decision will mean that the three mature sycamore trees outside the TK Max store will be felled to make way for a large glass kiosk which is a major feature of the development plan and will accommodate the restaurant ‘Patisserie Valerie’. The kiosk is in our opinion, wholly undesirable. It will inflict serious visual damage on both the Montague Centre and surrounding conservation area as well as destroying the trees.

The Worthing Society does not wish to’ mothball ‘the town and is keen to see regeneration. In fact we did not object to the application for change of use from retail to restaurant class for the shop units on the west side of the Montague Centre. However, the Society deeply regrets the loss of the trees. Our ‘Save the Trees Petition’ obtained 3476 signatures which showed that a very large section of Worthing’s community agreed with us. We are saddened that in view of these strong public sentiments a compromise could not have been reached to site’ Patisserie Valerie’ within the new restaurant units on the west side of the centre. The distinctive group of trees are mentioned as being important to the Conservation Area and although the developer has agreed to plant some new trees it will be many years until they mature.

The Montague Centre is an integral part of the South Street Conservation Area and has a classical design. It is a development which Worthing can be very proud of and in our opinion the inclusion of the modern glass kiosk will also conflict with the architectural style. Putting the kiosk in the middle of the entrance will block the views of the colonnade and indeed the new restaurants. It will we consider make the area less attractive to visitors. We therefore had great difficulty in accepting the applicant’s argument that the kiosk is essential to the plans and submitted a strong objection but unfortunately to no avail.

If we continue to erode the unique features of our Conservation Areas we shall gradually compromise the historic character of Worthing. Conservation Areas are the backdrop to our heritage environment and as such are irreplaceable. The ongoing challenge is how we manage change in the historic environment. Our view is that regeneration and heritage can work together to create an attractive public realm which visitors will enjoy. This in turn will help to stimulate the local economy, encourage visitors to return and improve employment prospects.

In future the Society would urge the Planning Department to actively consider that preserving our heritage need not conflict with encouraging economic development. We need to maximise the character of our town by enhancing our heritage environment with good quality, complementary design. In the opinion of the Worthing Society the opportunity to achieve this balance at the Montague Centre has very sadly been missed.

Susan Belton.

Worthing Society Chair.

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