From the business desk: is street scheme really a ‘sustainable’ project?

Business reporter Oli Poole
Business reporter Oli Poole

THE FIRST bricks have been laid as part of a key revamp of a busy shopping street – but the project’s funding has caused outcry among some.

A test bed for the Montague Street scheme in Worthing has been laid, giving residents a taster of what uniformly-coloured and Tarmac-free bricks look like.

But one group has hit out at the project being funded by ‘sustainable transport’ funds, suggesting a new coastal cycle extension between Worthing and Littlehampton would be a more suitable use.

The battle lines have been drawn over the word ‘sustainable’. Those unhappy with the funding ask how the economic regeneration of a high street can possibly be ‘sustainable’.

On the other side, the officials ask ‘what could be more sustainable than walking?’ They also hope more jobs will be created and new businesses open as a result of the revamp.

Worthing’s ‘Sustainable Transport Package’, as it is now named, was ranked number one in a list of five other schemes applying to Coast to Capital for funding.

So do the critics of the funding have a point?

Funding bids must adhere to several conditions.

They must be certain to deliver in 2015 or 2016 – the first phase of the Montague Street scheme will.

They must fall in the Coast to Capital priority areas – it does.

The successful scheme should deliver new jobs and employment space, has match funding and, according to independent consultants, represents value for money.

Montague Street appears to tick the boxes.

‘Sustainable’ is perhaps an unhelpful term, though.

The Montague Street scheme does not shout ‘sustainable’ as much as a cycle route does. Nor does the scheme fully examine the methods by which the expected 1.6 million visitors will travel in to the town centre. But it does appear to meet the funding criteria – ranking higher than a bike share initiative and a cycling network plan in the process.

It is questionable whether these pointers best evaluate a sustainable transport application and they perhaps merit a revisit.

But on a positive note, long-barracked county councillors have managed to deliver funding for a crucial Worthing scheme – despite fears backing would be withdrawn. The test bed looks fantastic and the majority can get behind the project.