Ambitious plans to create an attractive, pedestrianised ‘avenue’ are to be drawn up by Worthing Borough Council
Montague Place was, historically, a peaceful open space providing residents and visitors an area to escape the hubbub of the promenade and main shopping streets. That was until the rise of motorised transport saw it turned into car parking, loading bays and a drop-off point with turning circle.
With the Covid-19 pandemic meaning more space in public areas was required, the council introduced emergency road closures in the area and relocated parking spaces to enable local traders and businesses to utilise the space.
Now, it wants to go a step further – making permanent the closure to traffic and providing flexible open space which can be used for cultural events, pop-up markets and community festivals. It will also be equipped with free Citizen WiFi and landscaping.
Funding to draw up detailed plans is set to be released by Adur & Worthing Councils’ joint strategic committee at a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday
The council said the two-phase proposal would support further improvements to the town centre’s public realm with schemes in Portland Road and Railway Approach already being delivered in partnership with West Sussex County Council.
Councillor Kevin Jenkins, Worthing Borough Council’s executive member for regeneration, said: “As the country emerges from lockdown we’re keen to act quickly and do what we can to support our businesses and communities bounce back from Covid.
“As an under-used corridor between our popular seafront and town centre, Montague Place has so much potential and we’re confident that we can create a safe, exciting and inviting space for people of all ages to gather.
“The aim is to make better use of this under-used area in the long term. We know this will take time though, which is why we are keen to use the period it takes to draw up detailed plans to try out a number of options in the short term. These temporary changes will build on the feedback we have already received during the road closure of the last 12 months.
“We acknowledge that the proposals may have some impact on a small number of businesses and motorists. But we believe this opportunity to turn Montague Place into a real heartbeat of our town centre is too good not to pursue.”
The report to be discussed by senior councillors next week notes that the transformation of Montague Place will support the revitalisation of the town centre and economic recovery post-pandemic.
Benefits include creating a new destination, arrival zone and meeting point, providing improved outdoor event spaces and increasing sustainable travel options.
Councillors are set to agree to creating temporary improvements to Montague Place by November, which will allow the council to work with the local community to trial new ideas and explore different layouts of the street. This will help inform the design of more permanent plans.
Possible short-term uses include pocket parks, events space and continental-style ‘spill out’ areas for local businesses to serve food and drink.
The report also notes the council will work with West Sussex County Council to draw up permanent plans to relocate and enhance the blue badge and general parking provision in the area.
This is in addition to the extra disabled parking bays in Liverpool Gardens car park and temporary bays on Marine Parade outside Marks & Spencer, which were provided when the road closure was introduced last year.
The council will use the time the temporary space is active to draw up detailed plans for the area with proposals brought back for discussion by councillors next year.