Concerns over more than 900 businesses closing in Chichester during past two years

Serious concerns have been raised in the wake of research revealing hundreds of business closures across Chichester in the past two years.

The national study from Experian, which has been challenged by both the district council and the city’s chamber of commerce, claimed more than 940 companies folded in the area between February 2010 and February 2012.

According to the firm, its figures showed there was a five per cent decline year-on-year during the recession-hit period it analysed, with a drop from 9,506 companies to 8,564 in Chichester. But the council has hit back, believing the economic outlook is improving, with a number of jobs being created.

However, the report findings sparked concern from the Federation of Small Businesses, which expressed fears over a lack of financial support for small and emerging companies.

Paul Formstone, of the organisation, said: “It is very sad to hear of businesses closing, but this is something that is happening in all parts of the country.

“We are trying our best to generate confidence in the economy and urge the government to bring in its loan guarantee scheme worth £20bn to help small businesses.”

Responding to the report, the district council believed the area had in fact been witnessing encouraging economic signs.

Paul Over, its director for employment and prosperity, highlighted the fact there had been a number of new stores opening in the area as well as companies expanding, including Rolls-Royce, Northshore, Oceanaire and Montezuma’s.

He said: “We monitor business survival rates via the Office for National Statistics. Its latest data shows that Chichester District businesses are doing well. This latest data shows an increase in survival rates of businesses at Year 1; 93.4 per cent for 2009/10. This is above national average of 90.8 per cent ; and increased survival rates of businesses at Year 3; 66.2 per cent for the period 2007-10. The national average is 63 per cent.”

“Our unemployment rate continues to be one of the lowest in the country at 2.3 per cent. This compares to the south east average of 2.8 per cent, and the national average of 4.1 per cent. We have only seen a rise of 0.2 per cent since March 2011 which is an increase of 93 people.”

Farid Ahmed, president of the Chichester Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “The accuracy of the information in the Experian report does appear questionable and does not match our experience of current business conditions in the Chichester area. While, naturally, some companies are finding it difficult in the prevailing economic environment, the general mood of Chichester business is optimistic with a substantial proportion forecasting growth in the coming year.”

Kim Long, city centre manager, added despite the loss of firms including Past Times, Evans and Bon Marche, there were many firms opening in the area.