Council could buy Teville Gate site for £7.7million to unblock redevelopment

Worthing’s Teville Gate could be bought by the borough council as it looks to unblock redevelopment of the site.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 1:12 pm
Teville Gate, pictured after the site was cleared in 2019

The land has had more than its share of false dawns with a number of previous schemes coming to nothing.

Current owner Mosaic was granted planning permission for its Station Square development in March 2020 but later in the year indicated it wanted to sell the land, citing doubts caused by the pandemic.

Then Worthing Borough Council announced plans to intervene by partnering up with housing association VIVID.

However an agreement could not be reached between the parties and VIVID has pulled out, according to council officers.

The council’s intention is now to purchase the land on its own with a view to selling it on to a preferred development partner within three years.

The overall cost to the council of this, including taxes and fees, would be £8.1million.

The proposed purchase is set to go before the council’s joint strategic committee next week (Tuesday July 13).

The council will have to fund the debt charges associated with the purchase until the site can be sold and developed by a third party.

In the meantime a ‘key effort’ will be made to implement temporary or pop-up short term uses of the site. Examples suggested include pocket parks, a drive-in cinema, open-air theatre, Christmas markets, or short term commercial uses and events to ‘active and drive footfall to the site and reduce dereliction’.

Officers highlighted a risk the council could receive back less for the land than it paid, but in the absence of a viable scheme there was a danger Teville Gate is sold and landbanked, leading to further delay and uncertainty.

Prior to next week’s meeting, Kevin Jenkins, executive member for regeneration, said: “We have been very patient and tried to do everything in our power to help the private sector bring forward plans for Teville, from demolishing the car park to going into partnership with Vivid.

“Now is the time to completely take control ourselves and search for our own partner to develop the site whether that be for housing or a mix of housing, hotel and retail but it must be recognized that any decision must allow a viable scheme to come forward and enable the Council to offset its financial commitment.

“The easy thing to do would be to sit back and blame the private sector and the current economic situation but we are not going to do that.

“We are still 100 percent committed to bringing that site back to life, temporarily by using it for outdoor events and longer term for much-needed new homes.”

Previously the site has been cleared using money from Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, while Teville Gate House was demolished and new offices built on the northern edge of the site.

A report said: “Mindful of the strategic significance of the site, the council team has maintained the momentum and continued with the due diligence necessary to secure the redevelopment of this site. The fundamental point that has emerged from this work is that acquisition is key to unlocking development; and that the Borough Council is uniquely placed to make a positive intervention to secure redevelopment of this brownfield site in line with its community strategy and forward plan and enables us to achieve best practice.

“Securing the site requires an element of managed financial risk, albeit this is limited by the prospect of securing a development partner(s) and not seeking to hold the site in public ownership for the longer term.”

Beccy Cooper, Labour group leader on Worthing Borough Council, said: “Teville Gate has been in need of a smart development plan for decades. This Conservative administration has spent years telling us that they will shortly be bringing forward viable partnership plans with the private sector for the site, with absolutely nothing to show for it.

““During this time, numerous other councils have entered into similar partnership arrangements and have delivered housing and amenities for their communities. That Worthing council has been unable to do the same points to major strategic failings across the board.

“This latest scheme from the council looks less strategic and more last ditch panic. We will be paying the private sector almost £8 million pounds of public money for Teville Gate, which the council concedes in its own report we may eventually make a loss on. Cllr Jenkins states that the ‘easy thing to do would be to sit back and blame the private sector’ which, ironically, is what he and his Conservative colleagues have been doing with this site for years.

“Worthing is in desperate need of new, smart, strategic development thinking. Panic buying Teville Gate at such a high price is more of the same from this tired Conservative administration.”