SHOREHAM Beach Green should not be turned into a ‘miniature theme park’.
That was the overwhelming view of more than 200 residents on Saturday, in response to controversial proposals to redevelop the green space.
Residents grilled Adur District Council deputy leader Angus Dunn on the issue as part of the Shoreham Beach Residents’ Association annual general meeting.
It followed the council’s decision last month to select Wilbo’s as preferred developer for a project to revamp the green’s dilapidated toilet block.
But rather than stick to the block itself, the developer put forward ideas for redeveloping the entire southern side of the green, including attractions like a skate park, as well as a restaurant.
Mr Dunn said: “We gave him a very clear steer that you, as residents of Shoreham Beach, wouldn’t be up for a skate park or a pitch and putt.
“That is your decision. We did tell the developer that we thought it was probably unlikely.”
Residents queried Mr Dunn over the selection process of the preferred developer, as well as the track record of Wilbo’s.
Mr Dunn said Wilbo’s had been selected because he thought the idea of a café would ‘sit well’ with the setting.
He reassured residents that preferred developer status would only enable Wilbo’s time to put a detailed proposal forward and no planning permission had been granted.
He confirmed that the council would not allow the relocation of the beach huts or development onto the beach itself, as had been detailed in initial drawings.
Residents said they had difficulty contacting Brian Wilson, owner of Wilbo’s.
But when the Herald contacted Mr Wilson, he questioned why he had not been invited to the AGM, claiming residents had his details from previous meetings.
He said: “We forget about our children. Where do you want our children to go? I decided to put something together for everybody. They have got nowhere to go.”
Mr Wilson said a restaurant and café would only work if the council pledged to make the green ‘very well landscaped’, as his proposal would not worked if it was ‘dumped on a worn piece of grass’.
Association chairman Joss Loader said the high turnout at the meeting, despite a major rugby match, showed the depth of feeling of residents.
She added: “We find it worrying that Wilbo’s Restaurants expects local people to come to them, rather than the other way round – particularly as they don’t appear to have a website.
“We would urge them to organise their own public meeting and exhibition, rather than relying on local community groups to spread the word and do all the work for them.
“The council, as landowner of a major green space, also needs to step up to the mark and keep people in the loop as their lack of communication has been dismal.”
East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton, who was also present at the AGM, said the plans were ‘rubbish’.
He said: “I could have drawn this and I don’t think it is going to see the light of day.
“I wouldn’t be too worried that we are going to have Disney World on Beach Green but we mustn’t be too complacent about it.”
Mr Wilson said residents should contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
He said a full scheme would be prepared and consulted on in due course.
For more information on the initial proposals, visit http://www.adur-worthing.gov.uk/estates/#shoreham-beach-green