The present tenants of the ten beach chalets proposed by Coast Café owner Stefan Sykes to be converted into artist studios and retail units are resisting strongly the move. They say they are not being unreasonable but only want to preserve a little bit of Worthing’s history and charm, and stop the march of commercialism – this time in the name of art.
Paul Doran said: “What we’ve heard from the Council and the tenant of Coast Café, by way of justification for the proposal, is worryingly unconvincing. Claims that more of what’s already there will increase footfall and bring financial benefits to the town are fanciful at best: is it really believed that people will come to the town/East Beach because there are an additional ten studios?
“In the present economic climate it is hard to see how giving up guaranteed chalet income for speculative benefits can be justified to the taxpayer. Apparently some of the funding to convert the chalets is coming from a grant but surely `free money` should not mean that prudent consideration does not have to be given to its use?”
Sue Sanders said: “We are not against regeneration of the East Beach nor efforts to create a more culturally vibrant town but this proposal falls very short of achieving that, and were it to be approved it would we believe be the thin end of a wedge, resulting in the eventual loss of all the chalets that have stood here since the 1930`s. The chalets were built for the leisure and recreation of families and their friends and we should not be getting rid of an irreplaceable facility. Already two of the main seaside attractions over the years for visitors as well as local people, namely the paddling pool and Peter Pan playground, have been removed.”
Local Worthing Borough Councillor David Chapman is also worried reflecting the tenants’ concerns and those of others who point out Worthing Borough Council is building more beach huts for rent, arguing there is much demand for them and against much opposition. The plan removes ten chalets from public use.
Cllr Chapman said: “Whilst the concept of an artists quarter could be seen as a good thing, I do feel that the residents of the chalets have a case to be answered and it does raise questions in terms of management of the project.
“It does seem that this could also be construed as an individual developing his business using council assets. It has not been an open project with the possibility of others tendering for the business. The chalet tenants were not consulted at the outset of the planning and were merely informed when the project plans were finalised. As one chalet owner said to me ‘It was a done deal between Mr Sykes and the Council. Who scrutinised and authorised the setting up of the deal?’
“I also understand that not all in the Worthing Arts Community are in full support of the project. Some feel the money could better be spent on other arts initiative projects such as the Open Houses Project which are relatively starved of Council Resources. The question is asked as at to whether this site – relatively isolated from the town centre and with the main public concentration of passing footfall in the summer months – is the best location for such a project.”
Cllr Chapman also raises the safety issue and the already significant problems arising from the conflict between cyclists using the cycle lane in close proximity to the footpath.
Cllr Chapman said: “Near misses are observed regularly on busy days, further exacerbated by the reduction in the width of the footpath by Coast Café tables. Setting up a hub of activities to attract more people to this area will not help the problem.
“There are too many anomalies and contradictions to let this pass without closer examination. ”
Summing up for the tenants Paul Doran said: “So we are petitioning to Save our Seaside, and 99% of the hundreds we’ve spoken to have agreed with us that converting a further ten chalets into studios/retail units is not the answer. Why not join us on Facebook or by signing when you see us down there.”
See earlier article posted 24.08.13: https://worthingdaily.co.uk/news/stefan-sykes-plan-for-beach-chalets/