Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee unanimously approved New River Retail’s plan tonight, including a new glass kiosk and change of use of several retail units for restaurants.
The £15million total investment may attract the likes of Nando’s, Cote, Prezzo and Patisserie Valerie - target tenants tonight confirmed to be in detailed negotiations with the centre’s owners.
The plans were supported by Worthing Town Centre Initiative and Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce, with the investment welcomed by businesses.
But the Worthing Society, supported by a petition of more than 3,000 signatures, opposed the loss of three sycamore trees in favour of the kiosk.
Stuart Mitchell, director of New River Retail, said: “If this application is approved, New River Retail will have invested around £15million into Worthing.
“This investment is an expression of confidence in Worthing and is one of the biggest single pieces of inward investment in the town centre in recent years.”
Objections to the scheme did not focus on the loss of retail use of the buildings.
But the majority of opposition concentrated on the kiosk – described as a key part of the scheme and specially-designed for Patisserie Valerie.
Mr Mitchell said many of the chains were dependent on the high-end patisserie agreeing terms.
Residents, however, questioned why the trees had to be felled, calling for a design which incorporated them.
Mr Mitchell agreed to explore the possibility of relocating the trees.
Green councillor James Doyle said: “The kiosk is not a kiosk which sells newspapers and cigarettes. This is a large retail unit.
“It is unnecessary and unacceptable.”
Debating the item, councillor Diane Guest welcomed the plans. She said: “I am really sad we are losing the trees however I am even sadder that our town centre is stuck in the past.
“We need new investment in the town. We need new national companies coming to the town that will inspire confidence in other development schemes like Union Place and Teville Gate.”
Councillor Edward Crouch said the area at night was ‘quieter than a lift’ with David Cameron and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
For a live blog of tonight’s decision, click here.