A major department store has committed its future to Worthing after multi-million pound town centre regeneration plans were unanimously approved by councillors.
Beales has been a key anchor store in the town for more than 15 years with two stores across five different premises in South Street.
But, against the backdrop of difficult trading conditions for UK retail, landlord St Clair Developments wants to investment in the area and refurbish the series of buildings.
The proposals allow Beales to consolidate its operations by moving into a newly revamped 60,000 sqft store ensuring it can continue to trade in the town for future years.
Seven new retail outlets will be created in the rest of the ground floor space while 45 new flats will be provided above.
After praising the applicant for investing in the town centre, Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee approved the proposal at a meeting last night (Wednesday December 19, 2018), subject to legal agreements.
Councillor Kevin Jenkins, Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, said: “This is a major boost for our town centre, securing a major department store for years to come while delivering new modern retail units to provide jobs to local workers.
“The creation of new properties is also to be welcomed creating much-needed housing in a popular central location. This supports our determination to improve and sustain the overall vitality of the centre of Worthing.
“We all know that things are tough for UK retail at the moment. But applications like this show there is no shortage of people looking to invest in our vibrant town.”
Papers presented to the planning committee highlighted that the proposed represents a “significant opportunity for Beales department store to be retained and refurbished whilst also making use of an under-used site in a sustainable location”.
Councillors were informed that while the application did include the provision of housing it was primarily a town centre regeneration proposal focused on safeguarding Beales.
The application will see St Clair invest £250,000 in creating a new store for the firm which will be about half the size of its current units.
More than 5,200 sqft of new smaller retail units will be created in Montague Place for independent and bespoke retailers in addition to a 6,000 sqft store in South Street.
A series of one, two and three bedroom properties will then be created above the retail space, nine of which will be affordable housing.
In writing to the support the application, Tony Brown, CEO of Beales, confirmed that the company would be signing a 15-year lease on the new store.
Mr Brown added: “I can confirm that the old store and arrangements were unsustainable for the long-term future of Beales Worthing. Working with a responsive landlord willing to engage and agree a plan for the long-term future of the store is good for Beales, St. Clair and Worthing town centre.”
Councillor Paul Yallop, Chairman of Worthing Borough Council’s Planning Committee, said: “The development will significantly enhance the character of the site and to provide a high quality mixed use development.
“The Committee recognises the challenges posed to the High Street caused by online shopping and believes schemes such as this will help to ensure our town centre continues to thrive.
“There was some concern that the level of affordable housing was not at the 30 per cent mark but, overall, it was felt that this was offset by the promised investment in a high-profile part of our town.”