The application, for the former Teville Gate car park site and land to the west of Teville Road, was approved at a meeting of the planning committee last Wednesday.
The site has been in limbo for years with a number of permitted developments proving to be non-viable.
This latest submission, from Mosaic Global Investments Ltd, includes an 83-bedroom hotel, a food store, gym and retail space as well as 116 affordable homes – though only 35 of those will be for renting.
Jawad Sheikh, of Mosaic, said the tower would act as a ‘beacon’ which would be seen from the A27 and the South Downs.
He told members: “We’ve believed in this project, we are committed to its success and have driven it forward through all the set-backs to a point now where we can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel to deliver a workable scheme in all aspects.”
Not everyone was impressed with the design and, given the length of time the site had been empty, there were concerns the council was adopting a ‘something is better than nothing’ approach.
Susan Belton, chairman of The Worthing Society, said: “Teville Gate is one of the most significant sites to become available for a whole generation.
“Although the area has been derelict for some years, something is not better than nothing and we need to stand up for good design if we are to avoid the planning mistakes of the past.”
While recognising the importance of the site, which would act as a gateway into Worthing, Ms Belton was worried about the lack of parking spaces – 100 for the 378 flats – and was not a fan of the ‘massive, over-bearing and somewhat forbidding towers’.
Helen Silman (Lab, Heene) was also not happy with the towering design, which she said would reduce sunlight to ‘below recommended levels’ for some nearby homes.
Ms Silman added: “We are deciding on something for the next 50 years. We can do better than this. The people of Worthing deserve better than this and they should be properly engaged in what happens here.”
Others, though, liked what they saw.
Paul Baker (Con, Broadwater) said: “We are delivering much-needed housing to the town, 30 per cent of which will be affordable, which is vital.
“I can see positives in this proposal. I think they will deliver a good development.”
Mr Baker included the low number of parking spaces among those positives, saying it would encourage people to ditch the car and take to public transport or cycling.
Steve Wills (Con, Castle) said the scheme was ‘exciting’, adding: “No matter what we do we can’t supply the amount of housing that’s required for everybody, so we need to do something.”
Several of the committee were Worthing born and raised and had seen the site change from Victorian houses to shopping centre to car park over the years.
Martin McCabe (Lib Dem, Tarring) said he was ‘absolutely sick of this site’ and thought the development was ‘wonderful, a great design’.
He raised concerns that some of the building regulations referred to in the plans were ‘out of date’. While officers acknowledged there may have been ‘errors’, they assured members the most recent standards would be followed from day one.
Several councillors were surprised to see so few members of the public at the meeting, with chairman Paul High saying the people of Worthing had ‘massive apathy for the site’.
Adding that his biggest fear was that this new development would never be built, he said: “The people of Worthing think nothing is ever going to happen there and it’s going to be a derelict site forever. People have given up on it.”
Addressing concerns that too many flats had been ‘squeezed’ into the development, James Appleton, head of planning and development, reminded the meeting that no maximum limit for the site had been set in the Local Plan when it came to numbers.
He added: “If this scheme does not go forward there are serious concerns about what development will come forward in the future.’
Members agreed with a proposal from Mr McCabe that a Changing Places toilet for people with disabilities should be included in the scheme – and the application was approved by 6 votes to zero, with two abstentions.
Should this development go ahead as planned, the area around Railway Approach will be changed forever.
Work on a five-storey office block at neighbouring Teville Gate House is already well under way.
It should be ready for use in 2021 by some 900 staff from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, who will be moved from the current offices in Durrington.