Campaign to keep Worthing ice rink ‘as it is’

Monday, 28 March 2022 15:40

By Jessica Hubbard - Local Democracy Reporter

A campaign has been set up to keep Worthing’s seasonal ice rink in its current form as the operator’s lease has come to an end.

Richard and Suzi Bradley, of Town Centre Ice Rinks Limited, usually lease an area of Steyne Gardens for the seasonal attraction, which they have run for the past eight years. But Worthing Borough Council (WBC) intends to invite ‘expressions of interest’ for the site after the Bradley’s five year lease ended in February. This means any operator could come forward to run the ice rink or a similar seasonal attraction.

Now Andrew Slater, a building contractor who has worked for the Bradleys, has started a campaign to keep the ice rink as it is.

Mr Slater is concerned that prices could rise if a national operator takes over. “Worthing Ice Rink as it is, currently offers super off-peak tickets and seasonal tickets and is the most affordable privately run ice rink on the South Coast,” he said. 

“The community groups, certainly when I worked there, would get quite a large discount – schools and the Scouts. It really made it affordable and accessible for a large audience and it really does benefit the whole town and not just private owners.”

Mr Slater is calling on the council to give support to the current operators by extending the lease and has asked WBC to share the reasons behind bringing it to an end. “It feels like a hushed decision which probably felt inconsequential when they made it,” said Mr Slater.

But a spokesperson for Worthing Borough Council explained that the council is obligated to advertise the lease.

“The five-year lease was up and we have to tender under the terms of the lease agreement,” they said.

“The public would expect us to do this so that we are always looking for best value and not tying ourselves to too long a lease for what is a seasonal attraction.”

An application with West Sussex County Council to ban vehicles at Montague Place following improvement works includes references to holding an ice rink there – though the council has not confirmed this.

“Owners were told that the council wanted to move it to Montague Place,” said Mr Slater, who is concerned this could reduce the rink’s size by 200 square metres.

Suzi Bradley said she was ‘bowled over’ by the amount of work put into the ‘Protect Worthing Ice Rink’ campaign, adding that the lease situation has
caused uncertainty. She said the couple took on the lease knowing the rink had made losses in previous years but said they still wanted to make improvements.

“We risked our own money – we didn’t get any sort of grants – and slowly we’ve built up the business,” she said.

“There wouldn’t be a Worthing ice rink if it wasn’t for us.

“We’re now on our third lease and previously the council never had a problem renewing our lease.”

Ms Bradley said the introduction of £5 off-peak tickets last season saw families coming in every week to skate, adding: “A commercial operator won’t do that.”

She also expressed concerns over moving the rink to Montague Place or making the rink open air, as this could open it to the elements and make skating conditions ‘dangerous’.

A council spokesperson said: “The tendering process will specify that we still see Steyne Gardens as an ideal location for an ice rink and we would welcome a bid from the current leaseholder who has operated successfully there.”

The same operator may well remain as Town Centre Ice Rinks Limited intends to put in an expression of interest.

But Ms Bradley says the company will consider taking the rink elsewhere if another operator takes over – something she said would be a ‘real shame’.

 

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