Patisserie Valerie and several restaurant chains could move into the Montague Centre – but plans to be considered by councillors next week hang in the balance.
Montague Centre owners New River Retail hope to transform the town centre venue into a restaurant destination, with the likes of Nando’s and Wagamama hinted as potential tenants.
But Worthing Borough Council planners have recommended refusal of the application, seeking to protect prime retail space.
More than 1,500 residents also oppose proposals to fell three sycamore trees in favour of a glass kiosk – intended for high-end chain Patisserie Valerie, according to the council report.
Case officer Gary Peck wrote: “On balance, your officers feel that the overall level of harm outweighs the potential benefits of the scheme and the application is recommended for refusal.”
New River Retail took over the centre in 2014 but with a number of leases up in the next 12 months it began drawing up plans for the proposed £1.8million investment.
The change of use application would see units currently occupied by retailers Laura Ashley, Toy Barnhaus, Select, Clinton’s, Stacks and Verb replaced with restaurants and cafés.
The centre’s owners argued there is ‘known demand and under-supply in Worthing’ for such facilities, with decreasing demand for traditional retail.
But the report to councillors, to be considered next Wednesday (June 1), argues not enough evidence has been supplied to justify the application.
Negotiations to decrease the number of restaurant units proposed also failed because alternatives were not judged by New River Retail to be viable.
But while council policy seeks to retain retail units in the centre, most of the public objection has focused on the kiosk and loss of trees.
The Worthing Society’s petition was signed by 1,527 residents, objecting to the construction of the kiosk in favour of the trees.
New River Retail plans to replace the felled sycamores with five new trees – but the council’s arboricultural officer described the current trees as having ‘outstanding public amenity’ and believes they should be retained.
Mr Peck wrote: “As acknowledged by the arboricultural assessment, there is little other landscape interest in the immediate area and ordinarily, therefore, and taking into account the public representation received in respect of the matter, there would be no grounds at all to consider the removal of these trees as being acceptable.”
The Town Centre Initiative is supportive of the application and has identified the Montague Centre as a ‘high risk’ area.
Speaking earlier in the year, New River Retail managing director Stuart Mitchell said he envisaged a similar restaurant destination to a project in Leamington Spa, which included the likes of Nando’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Yo! Sushi.
He said: “We believe that our plans will help revitalise the town centre, significantly increasing its attractiveness to local residents and visitors alike, and increasing footfall for the centre and surrounding area.”
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