Worthing Borough Council has given the green light for work to begin on pedestrianising and modernising Portland Road from next month.
The £925,000 scheme, which is funded by West Sussex County Council and the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.
In an attempt to encourage visitors to the town centre and support local businesses, the project will introduce free ultrafast public WiFi, better lighting, comfortable seating areas, cycle racks and landscape planting.
Kevin Jenkins, the council’s cabiner member for regeneration, said: “I’m so pleased the council is able to announce that work will commence for the Portland Road scheme. It will see the street transformed into a vibrant and inclusive space with a lovely, clean design that allows easy use for all.
“Despite the many struggles the Covid-19 pandemic has presented, it has not slowed down the council’s plans to breathe new life into this area of Worthing. We have looked very carefully at all aspects of the new public realm to ensure the space is suitable for people to enjoy from day to night - from when the cafes open until the bars close in the early hours of the morning - once Government restrictions are lifted.”
Portland Road will be the first scheme delivered as part of Worthing’s Growth Deal, a joint-project with the county council that plans to rejuvenate eight public realm spaces from the train station to the seafront over the next five to ten years.
The plan is to connect the street to other town centre areas through safe, well-lit spaces.
The space between Montague Street and Chandos Road will be pedestrianised with street furniture, including plenty of seating, plus h lighting, trees and landscape planting.
Local contractor Landbuild Ltd has been appointed to bring the project to life. Work will be finished in Spring 2022 but the firm is hopeful of early completion by the end of this year.
There will be enough space for people to practise social distancing in the short term as well as a clear way for those who are visually impaired or have mobility issues to move around.
The scheme has been designed by WSP and Project Centre and will be delivered in phases, to allow access to the businesses on the street, and so pedestrians can move around safely during construction.
Andy Sparsis, owner of the Proto Restaurant Group which includes The Fat Greek Taverna on Portland Road, said: “The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have hit Portland Road businesses really hard and now more than ever we need to improve the space.
“If you implement a great scheme which shows the councils are prepared to invest in the town, it gives so much confidence to other people and businesses, and it will make them want to invest in the area.
“We need to change the way people perceive Worthing, and one of the best ways to do that is to create beautiful, attractive spaces that families, workers, residents and young people can all use for many different reasons.
“By pedestrianising the road people can pop by and grab a takeaway, sit down with their friends, read a book, use the WiFi or enjoy a coffee outside. We need to develop that culture which is ultimately going to draw people to the area.”