Plan to buy Teville Gate site for £7.7m backed by councillors

Councillors have backed Worthing Borough Council’s plans to buy the town’s Teville Gate site and kick-start its long-promised redevelopment.

During a meeting of the joint strategic committee on Tuesday (July 13), members supported the £7.7million acquisition of the site – subject to the budget being approved by the full council later this month.

The committee also agreed that a £50,000 budget should be allowed so that the site could be put to temporary uses – such as pocket parks, a drive-in cinema, or open air theatre – while the full development was planned.

Martin Randall, director for the economy, told the meeting that the purchase of the site was ‘a very significant step and not one [officer] would recommend lightly’.

He added: “We have a real opportunity here to deliver an excellent scheme at pace.”

Mr Randall received no arguments from the councillors, who all seemed keen for the site to be finally put to good use, rather than serving as little more than a scar on the Worthing landscape.

Kevin Jenkins (Con, Gaisford) said: “Teville Gate has been kicking around and being a pain in the bum in this town for the best part of 30 years.”

Elizabeth Sparkes (Con, Offington) – who worked in the Teville Gate pharmacy in the early 1980s – added: “Much in life depends on opportunity and timing and  I really feel that this is our time for Teville Gate.”

The land, in Teville Road, has had more than its share of false dawns with a number of previous schemes coming to nothing.

Current owner Mosaic was granted planning permission for its Station Square development in March, 2020, but later in the year indicated it wanted to sell the land, citing doubts caused by the pandemic.

Then the council announced plans to intervene by partnering up with housing association VIVID – but an agreement could not be reached.

The intention now is for the council to buy the land before selling it on to a preferred development partner within three years. 

If approved by the full council on July 20, the overall cost of the scheme, including taxes and fees, will be £8.1million.

Without that approval, the risk is that Teville Gate could spend the next 20 years in limbo – much like it has since the end of the last century.

Leader Daniel Humphreys said the council had to ‘grasp this nettle now and move forward’.

The purchase of the site would be paid for through borrowing – and officers warned there was a risk that the council would receive less than it paid when it was sold on.

But the risks of doing nothing were equally as high.

A report to the committee said: “Doing nothing would represent a very significant risk.

“In the absence of a viable scheme, there is a danger that Teville Gate is simply sold on and ‘landbanked’ with all of the subsequent delay and uncertainty that entails.

“Alternatively, in the pursuit of financial viability, there is a risk that any new developer may seek to maximise housing numbers to the detriment of good design and place making.”

Officers told the meeting that £7.7million was a ‘sensible price to pay’ and they were ‘confident a profitable scheme can be delivered’.