A new Bistrot Pierre restaurant will be built on Worthing’s seafront after it was granted planning permission last night.
The application, which will see a shelter on The Promenade south of West Buildings demolished, was approved by Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee by six votes to two.
While members all welcomed the idea of a new restaurant in this location the two Labour councillors and several members of the public criticised the proposed building’s design and colour scheme.
Martin McCabe (LDem, Tarring) said: “I love this and I support it. I think it’s great and it’s a sign of a changing town and it’s what we need.”
Steve Wills (Con, Castle) added: “This can only be good for the seafront and Worthing in general. I have no qualms in recommendation this for approval.”
The agent for the applicant Nextcolour Ltd argued the new restaurant would help ‘transform’ the seafront area.
But several other public speakers were less supportive, describing the design, proposed materials and size of the building as ‘entirely inappropriate’ for this location.
Susan Belton, chairman of the Worthing Society, said: “The new proposed building is in our view too large and would appear overbearing and with a colour palette too dark for the seafront area,”
She questioned whether it was sympathetic to the listed buildings in the area, the pier and the lido.
She added: “We see this design as out of balance and in this case the harm caused to the surrounding conservation area outweighs the benefits.”
These arguments were supported by the two Labour councillors on the committee.
Helen Silman (Lab, Heene) welcomed the idea of having a cafe/restaurant on the seafront. But she added: “I think this is an appalling design. I think it’s banal. I think it’s too big and it shows no imagination whatsoever and does not replicate anything about the seafront.”
Jim Deen (Lab, Central) added: “I do feel this building is way beyond what is appropriate in this position.”
But the majority of the committee backed the application.
Paul High (Con, Heene), chairman of the planning committee, said he shared some concerns about the design, but added: “I’m going to support it, simply for the fact we need something on the seafront. We need something there.”
After the meeting Kevin Jenkins, executve member for regeneration, said: “I’m delighted these exciting plans for a landmark destination restaurant on the promenade have received the backing of the planning committee.
“This contemporary building really showcases one of the town’s greatest assets, our amazing coastal views, and will draw thousands of people to a stretch of promenade beyond the pier. It is the perfect combination of the traditional offer of our seaside town and bright new modern offer.
“I look forward to seeing the plans progress in the coming months and confident that the operators, who have a great track record in running such venues, will make a big success of it.”
But the Labour group was still unhappy with the decision.
Cllr Deen said: “A beach shelter, which the council itself has described in its 2018 Seafront Investment Plan as an ‘asset to the seafront’, is to be demolished to make way for the two-storey restaurant which will dwarf anything else on the seafront.
“It’s also in a conservation area and faces several Regency period listed buildings and a stretch of Marine Parade which has been sensitively re-developed to reflect the heritage character of Worthing’s seafront. It is not only totally inappropriate in this prominent and sensitive position, but it sets a dangerous precedent for future development along the promenade.
“I have no problems with a restaurant or cafe in this position. I think it would be a very welcome addition to the facilities for residents and visitors, but it should be a single story building of a design that reflects its position in this part of the town and its location on the beach and promenade.
“I fear that future generations will regard this decision with the same kind of horror and incredulity that we now have for the decision taken 40 or so years ago to demolish fine Regency buildings on the seafront and replace them with the rear view of an M&S store and a car park.”