Worthing business owners affected by Colonnade House expansion urge council to let them stay

Sophie Cohen, owner of Cactus Kitchen Gals in High Street, Worthing
Sophie Cohen, owner of Cactus Kitchen Gals in High Street, Worthing

Business owners in Worthing town centre have expressed their fears for the future after plans to turn their premises into a creative hub were unveiled.

On Tuesday, January 14, Worthing Borough Council’s vision for the expansion of Colonnade House was put on display for the public.

Carolyn Keyes, owner of Carolyn Keyes Dress Design in High Street, Worthing

Carolyn Keyes, owner of Carolyn Keyes Dress Design in High Street, Worthing

The plans include creating new work and exhibition spaces for the existing hub to attract more creative and digital industry professionals into Worthing, along with improvements to the public spaces nearby and up to six new studio, one bed and two bed apartments.

It would involve demolishing derelict buildings nearby.

But sandwiched in between are shops currently occupied by Cactus Kitchen Gals, Worthing’s first full vegan café which has been there for 18 months, and Carolyn Keyes Dress Designs which has been in the town centre for decades.

Sophie Cohen, owner of Cactus Kitchen Gals, feared that if she were to move, she would not be able to afford to rent a bigger space. She said: “I’m the newbie here, and I feel like: ‘please don’t kick me out, I’m still getting my feet on the ground’.”

Tony White from ECE Architecture at the public consultation for the Colonnade House redevelopment

Tony White from ECE Architecture at the public consultation for the Colonnade House redevelopment

She added that she had been a big supporter of creatives working in the hub and local artists, such as Immy Keys, who decorated the premises, and gave social media seminars, adding: “I don’t think our values are that dissimilar.” She felt the plans should include space for her and her business neighbours to stay.

Carolyn Keyes echoed this sentiment. While she liked the plans, the dressmaker said she did not want to move. “As a creative person myself, it feels a bit unfair to not be included,” she added.

The public consultation runs until the end of January.

The plans are expected to be submitted in the spring. If approved, construction would begin in the winter and the new facilities could open in winter next year.

A Worthing Borough Council spokesman said the public response had been ‘largely positive’ and added: “Throughout the process we have been in regular contact with existing tenants in the adjacent buildings about the proposals. We are offering support in relocating to other suitable premises, if required.

“No final decisions on what the new building will look like have been taken.”