Worthing ‘short-changed’ in new regeneration scheme

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WORTHING Town Centre Initiative has claimed £300,000 from a county “kick-start” funding pot is not enough to regenerate the town centre.

Worthing was unveiled as part of West Sussex County Council’s £50million “kick-start” project.

But members of the Worthing Town Centre Initiative have been left “surprised and indignant” after Worthing was allocated a smaller amount of money for regeneration than its neighbouring towns.

Compared to Worthing’s sum of £300,000, Bognor Regis is set to receive £600,000, while Horsham will be able to spend £500,000 on its streets.

Chairman of Worthing Town Centre Initiative, Chris Spratt, said: “We do not want to sound arrogant in this economic climate, but when Worthing is the largest town in West Sussex and its shopping precinct is in need of renovation, shouldn’t we be receiving more money than the smaller towns? I would like to know how this decision was reached.”

He added: “Especially as Horsham has already renovated its shopping precinct – West Street in Horsham is block paved with lovely hanging baskets, and this is something Worthing can only aspire to.”

The £50million “kick-start” fund unveiled by West Sussex County Council aims to improve employment rates, boost tourism and enable high-speed broadband across the county.

The lump sum for Worthing has been specified for the regeneration of the town centre, which will include a new Wifi zone. The high-quality environment with the addition of WiFi, the county council said, will help draw inward investment and employers.

Mr Spratt said he felt £300,000 was not enough to regenerate the town’s top priority, Montague Street, and Worthing had been “short-changed” as far as funding was concerned.

He said: “As a coastal town there are additional challenges with seasonal employment and lower retail catchment areas which make it more important than ever to offer something unique to attract inward investment.

“It is not that I do not think a WiFi zone is not a good idea, we have already discussed it, but it just was not top of our priority list.”

Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “How the money will exactly be spent will be up to Worthing Borough Council. But we want to get the money spent sooner rather than later. In this economic climate, things need to happen fast.”

Ms Goldsmith said when dividing the money between the towns, council staff spoke to various council officers from the different towns to put forward ideas for the money.

“I am happy the money has been divided appropriately,” she said. “I understand everyone would like more money, and it would be nice to have more, but this was a one-off cash boost. Borough councils may decide to add more money to the sum if they wish to, which I know some councils are doing.”

Ms Goldsmith added: “I think the money allocated to Worthing will make great improvements to the town and I am excited about what this project will bring.”