Each month, Chichester BID has the opportunity to showcase initiatives, opinions and events through a column in the Chichester Observer.
This column is called ‘In My View’ and quite literally is the view from each of the Chichester BID board members. The contributors to the column alternate per month so keep an eye out for the next insightful piece!
This month’s edition was written by Chichester BID Board Director, Alex Medhurst and published on 4th March 2016:
In my view we’re all responsible for preserving our city centre
The Chichester BID is focused on protecting and improving the centre of Chichester as a place to do business in. Therefore as an organisation we take a keen interest in what affects the dynamics of the economy and what helps the businesses that pay the BID Levy.
So the new developments going on in and around Chichester are of keen interest and we act as consultees on planning applications for the District Council.
What we have been seeing locally is the same as the nationwide problem. This being, too many perfectly good office buildings and shops being converted to flats or demolished, to be replaced by houses. Also, unsympathetic developers exploiting the strong demand from the larger multiple retailers wanting to have a representation in the attractive cathedral city. Or the strong demand for second or retirement homes in the city.
So the BID objects to these planning applications where appropriate.
However, the challenge is our cash-strapped local authorities that need to balance their books… We have seen the County Council exploit these planning loopholes to convert their commercial property assets to residential in Orchard Street and The Tannery in Westgate. Plus the District Council is doing the same, with Members seeming to have more regard for generating cash receipts to achieve short term financial equilibrium than preserving commercial property that the local businesses want and need.
The recent application by Brookhouse Developments to change the conditions on the planning permission, to allow Sports Direct to trade on Council land at Barnfield Drive is going to be a very interesting test of this. The Observer reported that one of the units under construction at Barnfield Drive had been let to Sports Direct, but this can only happen if they are granted planning permission to allow the sale of shoes and clothes – currently prohibited for the sole purpose of protecting the town centre as a vibrant place to shop and visit.
The BID has objected to this and we would encourage others to do the same to avoid a precedent being set.
Alex Medhurst, Director, Medhursts Chartered Surveyors and BID Board Director