Decision due on 209 homes at former Worthing gas works site

Worthing’s planning committee will decide whether to grant permission for 209 homes in the town at a meeting next week (December 15).

Possible view of the new development from in front of the Waitrose store
Possible view of the new development from in front of the Waitrose store

St William Homes is seeking full planning permission to redevelop the former Worthing Gas Works site, behind Waitrose supermarket.

Plans show five blocks of flats on the empty land which will be between three and seven stories high.

The 209 flats would include ten bedsits or studios, 50 one-bed flats, 141 two-bed flats, and eight three-bed flats.

Aerial illustration of the scheme

There would be 110 parking spaces for residents, 40 per cent of which would have electric vehicle charging points, and 205 bike spaces.

The taller block will be towards the centre of the development and a central courtyard is proposed.

Originally, the tallest block was nine storeys but this was changed to seven following public consultation.

Two access points would be included: one half way along Lyndhurst Road and the main access from Park Road.

Pictured earlier this year, residents give the thumbs down to the scheme

St William Homes said the proposed development would ‘provide much-needed housing’ and noted that the site is included in Worthing’s draft local plan for 2021.

Council officers said Worthing Borough Council can ‘only demonstrate a 1.32 year housing land supply’ despite ‘a proactive approach’ – they expect a shortfall of more than 10,000 homes against the local plan.

Affordable housing ‘not viable’

A legal agreement, also known as a ‘section 106’ agreement,  could see St WIlliam Homes providing hundreds of thousands of pounds in developer contributions.

This would include £400,000 in lieu of affordable housing which the developer, and an independent consultant for WBC, concluded was ‘not viable’ at the site.

The developer says the scheme is ‘on the cusp of deliverability’  in light of works needed due to contaminated land and other costs.

An independent consultant for the council, Dixon Searle Partnership (DSP), agreed that affordable housing was ‘not viable’ but noted that profits could be higher than suggested by the developer – something St William Homes disputes.

Changes following consultation

Two Coastal Design Panel reviews and three public consultation events have taken place, resulting in key design changes such as: reducing the height of the block to the north east of the site and also the tallest building; increasing the size of the central square; and improving the link between buildings facing the street and larger blocks.

Contaminated land ‘must be managed’

The Environment Agency said that former gas work use is ‘highly contaminating’, adding that risks to a nearby aquifer and marine waters ‘must be managed’.

AGHAST (Action on Gasworks Housing Affordability, Safety and Transparency) objected to the plans on the basis that remediation of former gas works can produce by-products and ‘pose complex problems’.

Council officers say that further risk assessments and communication with those in local area during remediation works are key and will be required by planning conditions.

Development will be stopped if unexpected contamination is found and only restarted once a suitable plan is put in place, in partnership with WBC, to manage the risks.

Nearby residents have also expressed fears over contamination.

One said: “I’m concerned that they are going to have to drill very deep and the ground could be toxic. What about our health? Do they really know that the ground is safe?”

Another wrote: “I’m concerned about what might be released when they start work.”

St William Homes says it carried out an initial investigation in September 2020 which identified ‘limited areas of contamination’ or ‘hot spots’ at the site.

The developer says this contamination will be addressed in line with relevant legislation.

More than 100 objections

Council planning officers have recommended the plans for approval with conditions.

The site’s location on the corner of Lyndhurst Road and Park Road means it is close to existing homes and some residents protested against the plans in September.

More than 100 objections were received with two letters of support.

The Adur Worthing Business Partnership (AWBP) was among the supporters.

Objectors include the Worthing Society, Brighton Society, Gasworks Communities United, and AGHAST.

The Worthing Society said it was not opposed to the principle of the development but was concerned over its scale and mass close to a conservation area.

The council’s conservation officer states that the development will not harm any nearby listed buildings but could cause ‘some harm’ to the Warwick Gardens conservation area.

Parking concerns were also raised but the local highways authority said provisions would be adequate and contributions towards sustainable travel and a ‘travel plan’ will be made by the developer.

Future residents will not be able to apply for parking permits.