Type of Works
Licence To Alter


One of the most fascinating licence to alter applications we have dealt is ongoing, on the Grade II Listed Worthing Pier on the south coast in West Sussex. It was the Pier of the Year 2019 which the National Piers Society described as “beautifully maintained by Worthing Borough Council”.

The application we were asked to deal with was for alterations to the Southern Pavilion, a vacant café/restaurant.

Historic Pier

A bit of background to this historic but troubled pier: Constructed in 1861 and into 1862, the pier opened that April. A quarter of a century later, the Southern Pavilion was added at the pier-head, and fast forward another quarter of a century when on Easter Monday 1913, the decking of the pier collapsed, leaving the Southern Pavilion isolated. A year later it was rebuilt but sadly in 1933, the Southern Pavilion was destroyed by fire, replaced in 1935 and the very same structure that we see there today undergoing major works. The Southern Pavilion (and the entire Pier) survived WW2 and over the years became home to many night clubs, although it lay empty from time to time.

Our licence to alter instruction

Fast forward again to 2021 and we were asked to assess the plans of the Southern Pavilion restaurant tenant, a grand plan to transform it in terms of layout, more covers and substantial modernisation.

Instructed by Worthing Borough Council (the landlord/freeholder of the Pier and its buildings), we have been liaising with their various departments and with the tenant/their professional team in respect of the permissions for their work: Reconfiguration of walls, new flooring, new plant throughout including air conditioning, a new theatre kitchen (cooking in front of the patrons), and a high standard fit-out.

Ongoing Works – Monitoring

At the time of writing this case study, the works are part the way through, and the tenant is now incorporating sprinkler works that the landlord has been obliged to install by the buildings insurer, thus improving fire safety for the entire pier. The landlord has been undertaking exterior works to the building too, so there has been plenty going on! Our current role is monitoring the works at regular intervals.

Lead up

Leading up to this point, Worthing Borough Council instructed us to assess the restaurant’s detailed plans and confirm all other permissions were in order: planning permission due to some external appearance alterations, and listed building consent too due to its Grade II status. We wrote a comprehensive report, providing the council with our findings and recommendations. Works commenced in spring 2021.

In common with many commercial licences to alter, there are many stakeholders involved, including various departments within the council, the restaurant tenant and their professional team including designer, contractor and structural engineer. And lawyers too. Our report and recommendations were incorporated into a licence to alter, which was drawn up and agreed between the landlord’s and tenant’s legal teams. 

Some challenges

Working at the extreme end of the pier presents challenges for the construction team, especially in maintaining the security of the site. Vehicular deliveries are not possible, so they are made by manually, by trolley, wheeling in materials the length of the pier. Naturally, peak times are avoided, as the pier is a very popular destination for locals and tourists.

For us, the main challenges revolve around design changes (by the tenant) and their professional team keeping all in the loop about those changes. The complexity of the works and the incorporation of landlord-imposed fire safety improvements as well as the installation of other sophisticated plant, adds to the workload but all is manageable and proceeding as smoothly as can be expected. Unlike residential licence to alter works, there are no neighbours and therefore no noise constraints thankfully!

What next?

We will continue to monitor the works through to completion and with the council, sign them off, and wish the restauranteur the best of luck with their venture.

The council, as the freeholder, will have an obligation to reassess the reinstatement cost of the Southern Pavilion once the works are complete, and inform the insurer of the new value, a service we can provide in house.

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