Demolition of Teville Gate’s multi-storey car park will be sought in a bid to kick-start long-awaited development.
Worthing Borough Council cabinet members agreed on Tuesday to seek permission for the £1.5million works from site landowners Mosaic.
The council said the project would improve the appearance of the site, cut maintenance costs of the leased facility and could prompt Mosaic to demolish the other buildings on site.
Leader Dan Humphreys said: “Party poppers are staying very much firmly in the box at the moment. We are not there.
“This is us with a declaration of intent to put pressure on them so that we are ready to bring that public money into play.
“It needs to be developed and we are pushing in every way we can to bring that about.”
Government funding to help develop the site was secured earlier this year. The council will resubmit its business case so it can use a slice of the funds for the demolition.
A temporary surface car park would be opened if the building was knocked down.
Director for the economy Martin Randall said he had met Mosaic in London on Tuesday and had secured verbal agreement for the plans.
A planning application is anticipated by the end of November. But speaking from the public gallery, Labour councillor Beccy Cooper said other options, including a compulsory purchase order (CPO), should still be considered.
She said: “If this planning application fails to materialise can we think about a viable plan B that is ready to go? A range of robust options to hold these developers to account need to be considered.”
Cabinet member for resources Mark Nolan said opposition parties had never come forward with full proposals, costs and risks of compulsory purchase.
He said: “People need to take their stand to put it to the public and I do not support the compulsory purchase of that site.”
Mr Randall said if a CPO was ever pursued the council would have to demonstrate talks with the developer had taken place to assist them to come up with a scheme.
He said: “Everything we have set out actually provides a platform for a more effective CPO at some point in the future should we get to that point.”