Worthing’s creative industries set for post-COVID jobs boost
Creative and digital start-ups across Worthing could be given a post-COVID jobs boost with the proposed expansion of Colonnade House.
The Worthing Borough Council-owned creative hub has flourished since being opened in 2015. This has continued during the pandemic with gallery space and artistic studios running at close to capacity this year.
Keen to provide even more artists, designers and tech start-ups with a platform to grow, the Council is now looking to push ahead with plans to redevelop and expand the building in Warwick Street.
This will include upgrading the current facilities, installing ultrafast gigabit broadband and creating new studio units for micro-entrepreneurs by bringing back into use two redundant buildings in High Street. Six new homes, a cafe and further meeting and exhibition space could also be created.
Executive councillors, who are set to give approval to push ahead with the plans at a virtual meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, November 3), welcomed the move as part of its wider efforts to support the town bounce back from COVID.
Councillor Kevin Jenkins, Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, said: “Worthing has fast become a hotspot for innovative creative and digital industries with dozens of firms taking advantage of our vibrant communities, excellent connections and fantastic way of life.
“A big part of this has been the emergence of Colonnade House which has given local talent a platform to establish and grow while contributing to the wider vitality of the town centre and local economy.
“We want to build on that, creating adaptable, flexible workspaces which are fit for a post-COVID world and giving more opportunities to start-up ‘kitchen table’ businesses. This will create dozens of good-quality skilled jobs for local people while creating a more resilient local economy.”
A report to be discussed by Adur & Worthing Councils’ Joint Strategic Committee this week notes that while many businesses have struggled to recover from lockdown, the creative digital tech sector has continued to grow with recent figures suggesting it is worth £100 billion a year to the UK economy.
With the average business in the sector employing about 3 people, the proposed space at Colonnade will be focused on creating quality flexible space with world-class digital infrastructure which will be fit for purpose in a post-COVID world.
A total of 20 direct and 25 indirect jobs are expected to be created while the new facility will also provide professional development support for hundreds of people in the sector.
If executive councillors back the idea, a planning application could be submitted in December with work possibly starting on site in autumn 2021.
Councillor Heather Mercer, Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Customer Services, which includes culture and housing, said: “Colonnade House has been a huge success since opening, providing a space for hundreds of people to hone their skills while entertaining many thousands more.
“The fact this new plan will offer even more innovative individuals a chance to make a living from their creative talents is extremely exciting.
“I also welcome the possibility of creating six new properties by turning run-down derelict buildings into good-quality housing, something which is vital for the ongoing prosperity of the town centre.”
The redevelopment of Colonnade House is one part of the Councils’ ambitious direction of travel Platforms for Our Places: Going Further.
This scheme also supports the Council’s ‘And Then...’ ambitions to support micro startups and micro entrepreneurs in response to the COVID pandemic.