Plans to convert Worthing’s Montague Centre into a restaurant hub will be considered by councillors next week.
New River Retail’s plans were recommended for refusal at the June 1 meeting of Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee but were pulled from the agenda upon the applicant’s request.
The plans are now recommended for approval on Wednesday, after marketing evidence and an analysis of the health of the high street was submitted.
Case officer Gary Peck wrote: “On balance, your officers consider that the Montague Centre is in need of investment.
“The retail character of town centres is clearly changing and local planning authorities are encouraged to be flexible where possible.”
The proposals would see nine of the existing retail units converted for food and drink use.
A glass kiosk would be constructed at the northern end, with Patisserie Valerie confirmed as the intended tenant.
The Worthing Society submitted a petition of more than 1,500 signatures against its construction, objecting to the felling of three sycamore trees.
The council’s arboricultural officer described the trees, which will be replaced with new saplings, as having ‘outstanding public amenity’.
Mr Peck’s report acknowledges the loss would be one of the ‘regrettable’ elements of the plans but said the overall benefits of the scheme ‘outweigh the harm’.
Since the last report, New River Retail commissioned the Local Data Company to analyse Worthing’s high street.
The report concluded the town was ‘severely behind’ others in terms of its increase in leisure provision, such as cafés and restaurants.
While UK-wide leisure provision has increased 16 per cent over the last five years, Worthing saw a seven per cent rise.
The analysis noted 18 food and drink businesses which were present in other towns but not in Worthing.
It suggests the proposal would see Worthing move above Chichester for ‘retail attractiveness’, while boosting footfall and reducing overall town centre vacancy rates.
Marketing evidence submitted by New River Retail detailed how negotiations with the likes of Warren James, Moshulu, Trespass and Poundworld had previously broken down, suggesting the centre was less viable for traditional retail.
But consultants hired by the council argued evidence on some units had still not been provided, while alternative configurations to encourage interest had not been demonstrated.
To read the full report, click here.