AN artificial beach which has been enjoyed by thousands of people has been labelled a success by traders, despite initial scepticism.
The attraction, which has been in South Street Square, in Worthing, for the past month, was installed by the Town Centre Initiative, in a bid to draw and retain visitors to the town centre.
The idea drew criticism from several members of the public – and even some business owners on the TCI board.
But as it comes to an end, the consensus is it has been a positive thing for the town.
Jeremy Silverthorne, owner of Jeremy Silverthorne Fine Jewellery Company, in Warwick Street, was one of the sceptics, but says he has been ‘won over’.
He said: “I have to eat humble pie now, as it has been very well received. It can only be a positive thing.
“It has won me over. I was initially sceptical, as a beach in an already seaside town didn’t sound like the best idea, but I am pleased to have been proved wrong.”
The TCI estimates 15,000 people have used the attraction, which cost £10,000 to run.
As it is a designated business improvement district, levys from member businesses covered the cost.
Town centre manager Sharon Clarke said: “It has been fantastic, and certainly people have loved it.
“Feedback is that children are happier in town, as they are having a rest from shopping, and people are staying a little bit longer in the town centre.
“Some businesses were sceptical to start with, but have seen benefits it can bring to the town.”
Traders who spoke to the Herald and Gazette explained it is hard to draw firm conclusions on the extent to which trade has been affected as a direct result of the beach.
However, Paul O’Brien, owner of Candy Love, in Montague Street, believed trade had improved slightly.
He said: “It’s tough to say, but I think it has improved. I think it has made more people come to Worthing,
“It has been on for a long time, so I can’t put a figure on it, but I have had a lot of people coming in and saying how nice it is, and no negative comments at all.”
Caroline Wilbur, of The Wool Bar, added: “It has brought some new people into town, and I’ve noticed that in the shop. I can’t really put a figure on it, but I think our trade has been up around 10 per cent in the past month.
“I think it’s an excellent idea, and should be turned into something else after the summer, to keep it going.”
The beach caught the attention of Adur District councillor for regeneration, Pat Beresford, who said it was a ‘good thing’ for a town like Worthing.
He said: “I was looking at it the other day, and I think it’s beneficial to the town.
“I don’t think we could have anything like it in Adur, though, as it needs an enormous amount of space we have not got. It’s a shame.”