‘Case to protect tranquil Worthing gardens has been accepted’

The case to protect the character of a ‘tranquil and calm’ Worthing gardens has been accepted by the borough council, according to Labour members.

Denton Gardens, Worthing
Denton Gardens, Worthing

Denton Gardens, situated to the east of the pier and south of Brighton Road, has an ornamental sunken garden, raised terrace and herbaceous border.

But earlier this year, concerns were voiced about Worthing Borough Council promoting ‘an exciting opportunity for an adventure golf/leisure activity operator’ and how this would threaten the ‘tranquil and calm’ space.

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The 0.595 acre site at the south of the gardens, which contains the mini golf, also has existing buildings which the council said could be converted by a new operator, for example into food or drink attractions.

Back in May 2021, Jim Deen (at back 4 th from left) with local residents collecting signatures for the petition

A Friends of Denton Gardens Facebook page was set up in opposition to the plans and a petition urging the council to protect the space was submitted.

It called on the town’s parks and green spaces to be cherished and improved rather than leased out to the highest bidder for development.

Earlier this week, council leader Daniel Humphreys formally responding to the petition saying: “In the year prior to the centenary of Alderman Denton’s gift to our town, Worthing Council will work with the local community to protect and enhance Denton Gardens in a manner that retains the character of the gardens.

“Our parks and green spaces will be cherished and improved. Worthing Borough Council does not lease out green spaces for development on a ‘highest bidder’ basis.”

Labour councillors believe this represents an admission that the Conservative administration ‘got it wrong’.

Jim Deen, who represents the Central ward, said: “We know about adventure courses in neighbouring towns and we were horrified that the council could consider such a development for Denton Gardens. They have a particular character which has been conserved since the gardens were gifted to the town by Alderman Denton 99 years ago.”

He thought it was clear Mr Humphreys had seen the force of opinion was strongly against this kind of development and had accepted the case made by petitioners.

He added: “We congratulate the local residents for the way they presented their case and their persistence in seeing it through to a successful conclusion. It’s not just a huge victory for them, it’s a win for all Worthing residents and visitors to the town.”

He went on to suggest in light of the climate emergency more should be done to protect parks and green spaces, with the proposed type of commercial development meaning more concrete and artificial surfaces rather than grass, plants and trees.

But Mr Humphreys told the Herald: “In recent weeks I have held two very constructive meetings with the new ‘Friends of Denton Gardens’ group. Their petition was well timed as next year is the centenary year of the bequest by Alderman Denton.

“Worthing Borough Council is committed to working with the local community to enhance the gardens and that may well include a new and larger golf offer on the site. The four Labour councillors who represent the area had every opportunity to give their views on the petition but none of them chose to make any representations to me whatsoever.”

A spokesman for the council confirmed it is still moving forward with the process of investigating via the expression of interest process whether there is any appetite for a leisure upgrade of the area, but this would include extensive consultation and the friends group would also be involved.