Concerns about fire safety saw Worthing councillors defer plans to convert a former Debenhams store into flats.

The application from Craig Developments Ltd to develop the site into 79 one and two-bedroom flats plus retail space was discussed by the borough council’s planning committee on Wednesday (June 7).

While councillors were happy to hear about plans to bring life back to the South Street site, their safety concerns proved too serious to be able to give it the nod straight away.

The issue lay with the proposed internal design and sprinkler system.

In a report to the committee, the council’s Environmental Health Private Sector Housing officer said: “The vast majority of the proposed flats – and especially the one-bed units – have an incredibly poor layout, with bedrooms only accessed though high-risk kitchen areas and so creating inner rooms.”


They added: “Having looked at the floor layouts, I am really concerned about how badly designed they are and do not believe that the problems can be engineered out with sprinklers.”

Planning officers told the meeting that the applicant disagreed with the environmental health team’s concerns that some of the fire safety requirements of the British Standards  would not be met.

Discussions are still ongoing to address the concerns.

Councillors, though, were unwilling to give their approval to the scheme just yet.

Rosey Whorlow (Lab, Central) told the applicant: “I’m completely behind the refurbishment of this landmark building. I think it’s a brave design. I’m loving much of what you’re doing and I really think you are absolutely on the right track.

“However, for me, the lack of clarity over the issue between the sprinkler systems, not having confirmation around fire safety and this whole debate is really concerning.

“If it were to go wrong, I feel that I would have voted through something when I wasn’t clear and I wasn’t really confident that the fire safety issue had been sorted out.”

Samuel Theodoridi (Lab, Castle) agreed, adding: “To be able to approve this, I’d have to be absolutely sure in my own mind that the development doesn’t pose a risk to future residents.”

The committee voted unanimously to defer the application until a satisfactory outcome had been reached on the room layouts and the fire safety standards.