Time to transform Littlehampton town centre into an economic growth area

There has been much debate on social media in recent weeks about the plight of Littlehampton town centre.

We have witnessed more sad closures. National trends and the use of companies like Amazon have played a part in the decline of town centres everywhere.

Littlehampton town centre

Littlehampton town centre

However, these have been exacerbated by a series of deliberate and unfortunate policy decisions limiting footfall into the town.

The closure of the Tamarisk Centre. The decision to strip out the visitor centre and Littlehampton Experience from the Look & Sea and the removal of the resource which co-ordinated visitor group visits every year. The decisions to permit all the new retail outlets along the A259 in Rustington and Angmering. Most recently yet another food outlet, a clear breach of the Government’s sequential test designed to give town centres half a chance.

At considerable expense, stakeholders got together and designed a scheme to enhance the public realm and accessibility which still languishes in a Government office somewhere awaiting a decision.

So, we can all bemoan what has happened but at some point we have to move on. What next?

Perhaps a town which focuses on providing leisure and food and drink for the visitors attracted to visit our most fantastic asset – our seafront and river.

Specialist shops and independent traders thriving in a typically quirky eccentric seaside town.

Mixed-use redevelopment schemes which do include residential development but which provide a sustainable mix of property sizes attracting a variety of income groups.

Good-quality design which emphasises our attractive heritage whilst showcasing innovative new shapes.

Focus on image to rebrand the town as an attractive and safe destination for an evening out. Involve our young people as stakeholders.

Should redevelopment on the West Bank occur, use it to create fantastic facilities for visiting boat owners and renters and as an access point to the South Downs National Park for walkers and cyclists.

How do we achieve this? In the Arun Local Plan much of the town area of Littlehampton is labelled an economic growth area.

However, there appears to be no mechanism in place to give any life to these words sitting on a piece of paper.

In my view, as soon as the local elections are over a project board with the objective of bringing to life this ‘economic growth area’ should be established.

It should comprise representation from the town, district and county councils as well as stakeholders from existing businesses and the local enterprise partnership.

It should establish a vision and an action plan to bring it into being. As a matter of urgency.

Derrick Chester.

Worthing Road, Littlehampton

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