When I was 16, I wrote to the Worthing Herald with my concerns about our town planning (‘A Town without a Face’)- where I drew comparisons with neighbouring towns and villages which have retained heritage features, establishing character and desirability.
Almost 20 years on, I find that my feelings have escalated to the point of exasperation. Walking around the town centre I consider what could have been, had the council had the foresight and courage to break away from financially beneficial ‘jobs for the boys’.
Many of our historic buildings have been destroyed to make way for less desirable developments- Offington Hall, the original Town Hall (for the Guildbourne Centre) and numerous Edwardian seafront properties.
Residential developments in the town centre, including many social housing projects, have placed unmanageable demand on parking after cramming numerous units into buildings originally designed for one family. Change of use applications have been granted, stripping period features out of once grand homes, to make way for offices or homes of multiple occupancy.
Altogether more worrying is the shift in custodianship to various ambiguous organisations, operating under the banners of ‘arts’ or ‘regeneration’.
A case in point would be the beach chalets by Splashpoint. Back in the 1950s, when my great-grandmother was the mayoress of Worthing, our family took on a chalet for several years and enjoyed many happy days by the beach.
The chalets are rented from the council by families for their enjoyment as and when they wish. The contracts signed by tenants specifically state that no art activities or business venture is allowed in these properties.
Yesterday, I discovered that another stretch of Splashpoint chalets have been commandeered for business use under the dubious guise of ‘regeneration’. This has happened regardless of the huge opposition from the public, with many left feeling that it was ‘a done deal’.
One lady has been evicted from her chalet, after using it for over 30 years. The development was quickly processed without the formal tendering process (which would be expected of any council business opportunity), allowing a private individual to manage a huge area of council land and property without challenge.
There are numerous areas of Worthing which are in desperate need of regeneration, but the newly developed Splashpoint area is certainly not one of them. If the area was to require regeneration, I am quite sure there are many ways (with public consultation), that this could be achieved. ‘Art’ huts would not be high up the list, I feel. Worthing is not Shoreditch.
Growing up in a family of professional artists, actors and musicians, I have a deep passion for the arts. True art, correctly managed, can be a wonderful asset to any community. For example, ‘Worthing Open Houses’ sponsored by Winkworth, community events at St Paul’s, in Chapel Road, and Christ Church, in Grafton Road. However, the council cannot force change of use according to their own agenda.
The odd crumb is thrown out for public benefit, but these seem to gloss over all of the losses we suffer.
Indeed, Splashpoint is a wonderful leisure complex and my family use it every week. However, we have lost a boating lake, a free paddling pool, Peter Pan’s Playground and tennis courts.
When I walk around Chichester and Arundel, I contemplate what could have been. I return to Worthing and despair.
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