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Heatherwick’s Shoreham restaurant scrapped amid toilets row

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Heatherwick Studio’s £1.5million seaside restaurant in Shoreham has been scrapped after the developer and local authority failed to agree on the number of toilets it should have

The 70-seat landmark restaurant scheme for Jane Wood – the owner of Heatherwick’s RIBA-award winning East Beach Café in Littlehampton (pictured) – was expected to replace a dilapidated toilet block on Shoreham Beach.

However the 300m² project had to be abandoned after Adur District Council demanded Wood sign personal guarantees for the entire length of the 99-year lease.

Property developer Wood, who had ploughed £60,000 of her own funds into the project, walked away in frustration after Adur District council couldn’t commit to a lease agreement and re-advertised the site.

Speaking to the AJ, Wood said: ‘The site is an absolute eyesore. It had been on the market for many years before I was aware of it and had only one application in that time.

‘I first saw the site listed in February 2011 and by April 2014 I still didn’t have a lease for the property even though we had spent endless hours negotiating with the council.’

According to Wood, the restaurant would have taken 18-months to build after the lease had been signed and would have bought £1.5m into the local economy through the construction costs alone. Wood walked away from the project after it became obvious the financial constraints made the project unfeasible.

‘I am not a millionaire philanthropist who can afford to guarantee that much money. And my bank wouldn’t allow it. The council also wanted more than double the five which we had in the design. Who needs that many toilets?

‘You’re spending £1.5million on a building and fighting over the number of toilets is ridiculous. After three years I had spent a lot of money, my business partner said: “If you’ve had this much trouble sorting out the lease imagine what it will be like trying to build this thing”.

Wood has won plaudits for the transformation of neighbouring Littlehampton through the use of award-winning architecture including the East Beach Café.

The café, which opened in 2006, was Heatherwick’s first permanent building in the UK when it replaced a food kiosk on Littlehampton sea front.

The café was awarded a RIBA regional prize in 2008 and the town has since seen work by Asif Khan, Studio Weave and Flanagan Lawrence appear alongside Heatherwick’s beachfront work.

An Adur District Council spokesperson confirmed that it has been negotiating over the lease for the site: ‘While the initial concept plans for the proposal were exciting, agreement could not be reached on the terms of the lease and the interested party withdrew from the project.

“This was disappointing at the time. However, the site is back on the market and the council wants to attract as much interest as possible.’

Speaking about the design Wood added: ‘It was a bit of Thomas Heatherwick genius, and would have attracted a lot of attention.’

Heatherwick Studios said it was unable to comment.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • the point is that the existing public toilets need to be replaced as well as provision for the café users. The council are right I this instance and its not their fault if the developers financial model doesn't stack up. Why don't the council build out the project themselves and lease the café to cover the costs and bring in a revenue...

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  • PS - the architectural world may love the Heatherwick café at Littlehampton but the locals call it the 'Rusty Poo'....

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