A prestigious government-backed development company could join forces with Worthing Borough Council to revive a key site in the town.
The innovative proposal would see the Council and the company bring forward proposals for new homes, jobs, retail and possibly a cinema at Union Place in a partnership.
In a report to go before Council leaders next week it is recommended that the current small open-air High Street car park is sold to LCR which would then allow the company to enter a 'land-pooling agreement' with the Council. The Council would retain ownership of the majority of the land and continue to operate the car park.
LCR is an entirely publicly-owned development company with an impressive record of delivering world-class regeneration projects which include High Speed 1, St Pancras International, King's Cross, the International Quarter London in Stratford and Mayfield in Manchester. It is wholly owned by the Department for Transport.
The report, to go before Adur & Worthing Councils' Joint Strategic Committee next week, sets out recommendations to revive Union Place after more than a decade of dereliction. Worthing Borough Council stepped in to buy the site from its private owners earlier this year in an effort to bring fresh impetus for development. It promised to search for a partner to help bring plans to fruition.
Now the recommendation from Council officers is that LCR join the authority bringing with it top-level experience on much bigger sites. In order to have the company onboard for a 'land-pooling' arrangement and therefore unlock LCR's expertise the company wants to have a stake in the scheme, hence the recommendation that the small car park is sold.
The report references a document written by the British Property Federation and the Local Government Association, Unlocking Growth Through Partnership, which argues that joining forces creates clear vision, the ability to leverage greater investment, shared purpose and as importantly shared reward and risk.
“By combining these strengths some of the most significant barriers to development can be overcome. From this, a range of benefits flow to partners, central government, communities and the wider economy,” says the report.
Joining with another organisation in public ownership allows for pace to be put into development and a shared vision for the economic development of the town to be created, the report argues.
Other options are also considered but carry more risk to the Council, says the report. Taking on the project itself would be costly and the Council would struggle with current resources to maximise potential on the site and would take on all the risk. Selling the land on again to a private developer might take Union Place back to 'square one' with the site remaining idle.
The report sets out costs and benefits of a number of options and estimates 'land pooling' might generate annual income for the Council of £72,000 not including the benefit to the local economy of new homes, retail and leisure.
A spokesman for Worthing Borough Council said:
“This report sets out clearly the options for developing Union Place. The Council moved in to buy the site this year because we felt this major town centre site had remained idle for too long.
“We are now putting some pace into the project. The Executive Members will of course decide next week what option they would like to pursue but we should point out that if they approve the option recommended by officers the Council will be partnering with a company, 100 per cent publicly-owned, which has a fantastic record in bringing forward award-winning landmark projects.”
The report recommends that Council leaders enter into a land-pooling agreement with LCR with the purpose of progressing the development or sale of Union Place, to sell the High Street car park to the company at a price subject to independent valuation and to create a joint Strategic Board between the Council and LCR.
Image: Union Place - what the site could look like