Multi-million pound expansion of Worthing creative and digital hub approved

Multi-million pound plans to expand a Digital and Creative Hub in Worthing have been approved.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 4:40 pm

An application to demolish buildings in the High Street and Ann Street, next to Colonnade House, and replace them with the expanded hub, six flats and a cafe, was given the nod at a meeting of the borough council’s planning committee on Wednesday (April 21).

The £4.05m budget for the project was approved the evening before at a meeting of the full council.

Just over £89,000 of capital reserves have been earmarked for the project, with loans being taken out for the remaining £3.961m.

Plans to expand Worthing's creative and digital hub at Colonnade House
Plans to expand Worthing's creative and digital hub at Colonnade House

During the planning meeting, there was enthusiasm from the councillors about the hub, which was described as ‘new and fresh’, ‘innovative and interesting’ and ‘a huge asset for Worthing’.

But there were mixed feeling about how it would be achieved.

One of the main concerns raised was the loss of old buildings which have been part of the town for more than 200 years.

Fascinating pictures from 1888 and 1902 were shared with the meeting and councillors were told that the novelist Jane Austen may have visited the site when Colonnade House was used as a library in the early 1800s.

The Colonnade House site as it looks now

Helen Silman (Lab, Heene) and Jim Deen (Lab, Central) felt the buildings should be restored rather than demolished, with Mr Deen adding: “We have a huge responsibility to protect our heritage.”

Advice from agent Stuart Eatock, of ECE Planning, though, said the buildings were in ‘such a significant state of disrepair’ that keeping them was ‘unviable’.

The buildings are owned by the council and other concerns came from current tenants – some of whom have run their businesses from the site for more than 30 years.

Carolyn Keyes, a dress designer who runs her shop from Colonnade House, said she felt the plans had been ‘rushed through’, adding that it had been ‘a huge shock’ to find out about the demolition plans.

Old photos of Colonnade House

While questions were asked about the current leases held by tenants, it was pointed out that this was not a planning concern.

James Appleton, head of planning, said all the existing leases had expired and the two secure tenancies were holding over – occupying the property under the terms of the expired lease.

He added that the council could object to a renewal of those leases because of the redevelopment of the site and that this would mean compensation for the tenant.

The application was approved by six votes to zero with one abstention.

Old photos of Colonnade House

A few extras were added to the recommendations, including the need to properly record the buildings before they are demolished and to set up displays of the area’s heritage in the new cafe or art studios.