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Worthing Leader: we can learn from Belgian town centre project

Released: Wednesday, 03 July 2019

Worthing Leader: we can learn from Belgian town centre project

A fact-finding mission to a Belgium town which has adopted radical measures to change the fortunes of its centre has assured borough council leader Dan Humphreys that Worthing's own plans are on the right track.

Cllr Humphreys joined a party of politicians led by town centre guru Bill Grimsey to the Belgian town of Roeselare to see how it transformed its fortunes.

The two-day trip, run by the District Councils Network, allowed council leaders from the UK to see how Roeselare adopted many of the ideas contained in Grimsey's 2013 report to the British government on the future of town centres.

Cllr Humphreys said:

“It was a fascinating trip that has provided me with plenty of food for thought about what we might do in Worthing. Obviously all town centres across Europe are facing the same problems the digital revolution changing the retail industry but I think the Roeselare example shows that fortune favours the brave.”

“We have already started on plans costing millions of pounds to protect the centre, changing the mix with more housing and more leisure attractions on our seafront together with plans for a re-landscaping project on many of our main thoroughfares but it does no harm at all to find out how others have risen to the challenge.”

Cllr Humphreys pointed out plans for ultra-fast fibre and free wifi in Worthing would also bring fresh life and businesses into the town.

Roeselare mayor Kris Declercq read Grimsey's report, which made recommendations around areas including leadership, incentivised funding, business rates and parking, and decided to put many of them into action.

These included:

The changes have been made possible by investment from the local government and working in unison with retailers. The town has already attracted more than 30 independent traders to replace some of the larger retail stores which have succumbed to the online revolution.

Grimsey, a former chief executive of both Focus and Iceland, has said Roeselare is a success because it has developed a unique feel rather than the 'clone' feel of many town centres with similar shops and attractions.

Photo: Cllr Humphreys (right) with Bill Grimsey (left) in the town centre, Roeselare, Belgium

PR19-102 - Cllr Humphreys (right) with Bill Grimsey (left) in the town centre, Roeselare, Belgium

Photo: The town centre, Roeselare, Belgium

PR19-102 - The town centre, Roeselare, Belgium

(PR19-102)

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