MP could get Aquarena plans overturned

An MP has set into motion a process which could see the government overturning plans to transform the Aquarena site.

Monday, 23rd January 2017, 5:16 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd January 2017, 6:53 pm
Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West. Picture: Derek Martin

The decision to turn the former swimming pool and car park in Brighton Road into 141 apartments was approved by Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee on Thursday evening.

Six councillors voted for the plans, and one voted against them. Click here for the full reaction.

Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, objected to the Roffey Homes development – and now he has set in motion a process which could see the plans overturned.

An artist's impression of what the new Aquarena development will look like. Image courtesy of F10 Studios

He has asked the government to call in the plans and for them to be scrutinised by a planning enquiry – with a final decision on the site being made by Sajid Javid, secretary of state for communities and local government.

Mr Bottomley said he made the call with the agreement of East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton.

A spokesperson for the department for communities and local government said it ‘was considering’ the call in, and that a decision could take a couple of weeks.

They added that call ins were very rare nationally, with only a few hundred proposals going to a planning enquiry each year.

An artist's impression of what the new Aquarena development will look like. Image courtesy of F10 Studios

The key issues surrounding the plans were the impact it could have on heritage buildings, the amount of apartments on the site and the height of the 15-storey tower. Proponents said the tower will become a ‘gateway to Worthing’ and critics believed it will be out of character with the seafront and could set a precedent.

Mr Bottomley said that while he respected Worthing Borough Council’s decision, he felt the government should have the final say given the scale of the development.

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.”

On the issue of the tower, Mr Bottomley disgreed that it would be an iconic landmark, and said it would ‘change the appearance of the town’.

He believed a tower of that height should be near Worthing railway station instead, where there were better transport links.

He disagreed with the idea that the Aquarena could become ‘another Teville Gate’ trapped in planning limbo if the inquiry goes ahead – and said the development could even replace the Guildbourne Centre.

Mr Bottomley also dismissed Roffey’s claim that the development would bring £15million to the town’s economy, saying that most people who bought the apartments would be non-Worthing residents using them as holiday homes.

A spokesperson for Worthing Borough Council said: “The council is mindful that this planning application could be called in by the secretary of state. Whilst terms of the application’s legal agreement are continuing to be negotiated, a formal planning decision will be delayed pending a potential call in and we await this decision.

“Further details are provided in our latest update, which can be found at:”.

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