From the business desk: Why Aquarena height may be justified

Previous designs for the Aquarena
Previous designs for the Aquarena

IF YOU are housing developer, having a thick skin will inevitably be a key job requirement.

If you are a developer proposing the largest tower block in town, an added layer of protection would be advisable.

Plans for the Aquarena site in Worthing have had nearly 150 letters of support – a significant number – but this has been countered by more than 400 objections.

But having reported on housing issues across the district, and listening to both sides, I will not be following the crowd in criticising the plans.

Height is the main bone of contention, here, but in my view, Roffey Homes has a compelling case. This is why:

Over in Arun, residents are having a torrid time battling the emerging local plan – the housing document setting out the future of housing supply in the district.

It seems apparent that Arun is struggling to meet the Government’s assessed yearly need, some 750 homes per year.

It has selected sites to meet a lower target (many of which are unpopular) but crucially it has other less ‘ideal’ locations to spare.

Worthing does not have this luxury.

Constrained by downland on one side and sea the other, the town is limited on space.

When Worthing’s own local plan is submitted, the inspector and developers will go through policies with a fine-tooth comb.

In all likelihood, the town would not be able to meet its lofty targets, so would need evidence-based reasons for failing to do so.

If it has not made full use of sites like the Aquarena, critics will be asking why.

Could that eventually lead to successful arguments for eating into our strategic gaps, like Goring Greensward? I fear so.

While tweaking subjective elements of the design, Roffey has consistently stood firm on the height of the tower.

Had they thought the case for 21 storeys was unsound, I would have expected to see a reduction in the resubmission, rather than face a lengthy appeal process.

In official representations, Coastal West Sussex Design Panel supports the idea of a tower of such height.

It says: “The principle of a tall building on this site has been articulated clearly and convincingly, and is now supported with studies which in principle suggest that the appropriate height for the tower is approximately 20 storeys.”

Clearly a lot of research has gone into the proposal and it may be tough for residents to convince otherwise, in planning terms.

Remembering beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and I happen to think the new images represent an improvement – I fail to see how a new, modern building will do greater harm to the surroundings than the monstrous concrete eyesore currently blighting our seafront.