Building thriving towns

By martin Randall | 14 January 2020

Despite steady growth in the local economy, fuelled by the emergence of some dynamic new sectors, we realised several years ago that we needed a new approach to urban renewal founded on place-making.

Parts of our urban fabric were looking worn and we were suffering from too many sites with the potential for renewal, but which were stalled or were simply lying vacant.

To help understand the reasons why, we began to gather data and talk to potential investors about their perception of our places.

We soon realised there was untapped potential, but that action was required. We needed to send a clear signal that we were open for business and keen to attract investment.

Our first move was to recruit an investment officer to help us begin to compete for scarce public funds to improve our local infrastructure. This was followed by a partnership with West Sussex CC to prepare a Town Centre Prospectus for Worthing – to sell the opportunity – together with the launch of the Building Adur & Worthing magazine, prepared by our communications team and designed to change the narrative.

We moved at pace and our initial actions were unashamedly destructive. We secured Local Growth Fund (LGF) cash via the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership to demolish the brutal Teville Gate multi-storey car park that had dominated the gateway to Worthing town centre for over 40 years.

With further support from Coast to Capital, the next building to be razed to the ground was the former Adur Civic Centre site in Shoreham-by-Sea.

The impact was immediate and our subsequent attendance at events such as Sitematch meant we began to generate significant interest.

The council team quickly became adept at delivering bespoke tours of our places for private and public sector investors alike.

One such tour identified the prospect of a digital hub for HMRC at Teville Gate close to Worthing Station. Construction of this 6,500m2 building is under way, with completion scheduled for December 2020.

Our next move was bolder: we made a series of land acquisitions of strategically important sites that would help us to unlock their development potential.

Having done so, we quickly realised that for larger sites, we needed access to specialist skills and experience to deliver a programme of development.

Coast to Capital introduced us to London & Continental Railways (LCR) a Government-owned company with an outstanding track record for delivering High Speed 1 and regeneration and place-making on a major scale on former British Rail Property Board land at locations such as Kings Cross, Stratford City and Mayfield, Manchester.

A new partnership with LCR was born and, in 2018, we formalised this through a land pooling agreement and the acquisition of a major site – Union Place, Worthing.

Since then, we have been working together to co-produce a comprehensive scheme for development to include 200 new homes, a hotel, and commercial and leisure opportunities.

The project has been prepared in the wider context of our place, to enhance the connectivity and vitality of the town centre.

We have rigorously examined the potential of our own land and buildings. The former Adur Civic Centre car park is now the location for a new £9.5m, 2,500m2 office development, successfully pre-let to the Focus Group – a rapidly expanding local telecommunications company.

This ‘design and build’ scheme was funded by Adur DC and Focus Group is creating more than 200 new jobs.

In Worthing, we will be transforming the Town Hall car park to deliver an integrated health hub for the town. This scheme is the product of a successful partnership with NHS providers and commissioners in the local area and will create the opportunity for a new model of care.

Land owned by the borough council at Fulbeck Avenue, Worthing, has been transferred to BoKlok, a partnership between Skanska and IKEA.

This site, which would otherwise have delivered around 40 new homes on a traditional footprint, will now be the first place in the UK where BoKlok modular construction will be employed to provide 140 new units of affordable market accommodation based on a financial model that responds to local levels of affordability. Homes can be ordered in-store.

During the past three years, we have made some bold planning decisions which signal our ambition and are now being delivered on the ground.

Roffey Homes is at an advanced stage in the construction of a mixed use scheme that includes 140 new homes on the seafront at Worthing and features a 15-storey tower.

This new scheme, built on the site of our former swimming pool, has been designed by Allies and Morrison architects and complements Splashpoint, the new public swimming pool next door, designed by Wilkinson Eyre.

Boxpark has secured approval to transform a rather unappealing public WC into a magnificent new café and community space at Beach Green, Shoreham.

In a similar vein, one of our less attractive seafront shelters in Worthing will now be re-imagined as a new Bistrot Pierre restaurant.

Southern Housing Group is on site developing a major scheme at the Western Harbour Arm, at Shoreham. It includes 540 new homes.

This project benefits from £10m from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) secured via Homes England.

Hyde Housing is active on a riverside scheme at Ropetackle North in Shoreham and the main site of the former civic centre is now the subject of an agreement with Hyde to provide 170 new homes and flexible business space.

Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club is busy extending its Premier League training facility in Lancing to provide additional accommodation for the women’s team.

Under the banner of New Monks Farm Ltd the club has secured planning approval for 600 new homes, an IKEA store and a new 28-hectare country park next to the training facility.

This development and additional commercial floorspace at the adjacent Shoreham Airport, benefit from the flood protection offered by the completion of the major phases of Adur Tidal Walls scheme by the Environment Agency.

A further £6m of LGF has been secured from Coast to Capital to deliver a new junction on the A27.

Tours are still available…

Martin Randall is director for the economy for Adur DC and Worthing BC

Rolling out the connections

Reinventing public spaces, transforming the cultural offer, and establishing new digital infrastructure – two authorities transform their behind-the-scenes infrastructure to deliver the solutions for a modern economy

Adur DC and Worthing BC have taken a hard look at public spaces that have a vital role to play in reinforcing a strong sense of place – the meeting spaces, venues, connectors and destinations.

Working in partnership with West Sussex CC, the authorities identified 17 important public spaces that are integral to the repair and renewal of the local urban fabric.

Following extensive consultation with local traders and residents, 2020 will see the first major public realm scheme on site at Portland Road, Worthing.

Taking a stake goes well beyond bricks and mortar. The authorities recognised some time ago that culture is a vital part of our investment proposition with the potential to bring new life and energy to its places.

Over recent years, they have transformed the cultural offer through high quality, innovative programming, new acts and genres and investment in its venues. The result been a huge growth in audience numbers and international recognition for programmes such as Summer of Circus.

In November 2019, Worthing Theatres and Museum was established as an independent charitable Trust to take the cultural offer to the next level.

The creative industries are playing an increasingly important role in our local economies and it is important that we understand and nurture their growth.

At Colonnade House, Worthing, the Coastal Communities Fund investment was used to transform a former shop into a gallery space and workspaces for creative businesses and makers. The project has been an outstanding success and a gallery space that showcases the work of local artists is now booked for the next two years.

Using their acquisition skills, the authorities purchased the properties next door to Colonnade House and put together a proposal for a digital hub that will meet some of the demand for space from growing businesses in the town.

Far greater digital infrastructure capacity will be needed in the future, based on full-fibre networks able to support the rollout of 5G, exponential growth in data traffic and proliferation of internet enabled devices.

Adur and Worthing recognised this early on and working in partnership with West Sussex CC, became the very first Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport-funded full-fibre scheme in the country.

The authorities now have an expanded gigabit full-fibre programme connecting 90 council sites. This was followed by a £25m commercial investment from Cityfibre. The programme is well under way, connecting 50,000 homes over the next two to three years.

They are now working on exploiting a new public fibre network, including ultrafast public wi-fi to provide a platform for new digital retail and visitor experiences, modernised CCTV and remote sensor monitoring applications.

As with so many places, the health of town centres presents real concerns, but also significant opportunities. The authorities are taking a stake through the acquisition of properties in key locations and re-purposing redundant space. This includes supporting the expansion of the local music economy, which helps provide a platform for artists to showcase their work, promotes social inclusion opportunities for young people and supports the evening and night-time economy.

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