STAFFING pressures and a ‘suppresed commercial market’ have led to regeneration proposals for a key Littlehampton site to be put on hold.
A design brief for St Martin’s car park will not be drawn up until ‘resources are available’, with Arun District Council officers admitting action on the issue was ‘some time away’.
Speaking at the Littlehampton regeneration sub-committee last week, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Dr James Walsh said: “It is the key to the town centre regeneration, as if we can get a big anchor tenant in there in the form of leisure or retail that would be a big draw and increase footfall through the town centre.”
The council’s planning deparment is under pressure to deliver the district’s local plan, with a number of staff vacancies also hindering progress.
Head of economic regeneration, Denise Vine, told Dr Walsh there was no set timeframe for the brief but hinted it would be at least a year before resources were available. She said: “You know the pressures they are under regarding the local plan and therefore to bring that forward is quite challenging.”
Arun leader Gill Brown said the authority had always wanted to see the site developed.
She said: “Unfortunately, the economic downturn meant this aim being achieved more slowly than the council would like due to developers not wishing to or being able to build on sites such as St Martin’s car park.
“In light of the suppressed commercial market, whether development could happen and other service demands, the council has not prioritised writing a development brief for St Martin’s car park.
“However, the recent departure of Waitrose from Littlehampton provides the council with an opportunity to rethink how, in the longer term, the car park and surrounding area may be developed.”
The committee heard no tenant had been found for the former Waitrose store.
Mixed reports over the impact of losing the store have been received from traders.
Arun officers are pushing ahead with the town’s ‘Big Ideas’, seeking funding from external organisations to improve the link between the town centre and seafront.
Lead officer Phil Graham stressed the ideas were not final – and would be fully consulted on should funding be successful.
The council is awaiting news on whether it has been successful in obtaining a grant from the Government’s Coastal Revival Fund, which was oversubscribed.