Union Place deal to boost hopes of multiplex cinema

A multiplex cinema at Union Place could have a major impact on Worthing's theatres '“ but the risk could be for the '˜greater good'.

How would the Connaught Theatre cope with a multiplex next door?
How would the Connaught Theatre cope with a multiplex next door?

That was the message to Worthing Borough Council cabinet members on Wednesday (July 13), as plans to kick start regeneration of the town centre site were debated.

New homes, restaurants and a six-screen cinema are part of the vision for the dilapidated site.

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The plans could, however, negatively affect the adjacent Connaught Theatre, which generates more than £300,000 from its cinema operation annually.

Director for the economy Martin Randall admitted there ‘would be an impact’ and the theatre may ‘have to adapt’.

But he said the ‘wider prize’ was to deliver significant economic benefits for the town, adding a revised theatres offer ‘may not sit uncomfortably’ in a newly-created cultural quarter.

Leader Dan Humphreys said: “This is a Conservative council. We believe in competition. We don’t believe in protection and believe in exposing our own assets as much as everyone else’s to competition.”

The council hopes to strike a £3million deal with developers, which would see it acquire the freehold of a mixed-use development.

Up to £3million would be borrowed, with the council’s High Street surface car park added to the development site.

A bid to the Government’s local growth fund has also been submitted – and would minimise the amount needed to be borrowed if funding was granted.

Cabinet members unanimously agreed to pursue the deal.

Councillor Bryan Turner, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This proposed scheme offers excellent benefits to Worthing’s economy, which justifies our strong and proactive stance to help bring forward development on this vacant site.”

Mr Humphreys said Union Place was the development which would kick start further regeneration and have a ‘catalytic effect for the rest of the town’.