Can council’s shop flop be revived?

Caroline Spiby, owner of Caroline's Diary, Cllr Myles Cullen, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Economy, Property and Tourism at Chichester District Council, and Jason Burt, Managing Director of Farmhouse Cookery Ltd in Bosham, celebrating the launch of a local produce shop bid
Caroline Spiby, owner of Caroline's Diary, Cllr Myles Cullen, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Economy, Property and Tourism at Chichester District Council, and Jason Burt, Managing Director of Farmhouse Cookery Ltd in Bosham, celebrating the launch of a local produce shop bid

AFTER failing to find a local food producer to take on a South Street shop, the district council are taking a scheme back to the drawing board.

The plan was to find a local business, and give it a boost with the help of a district council-owned shop and a £75,000 grant from West Sussex County Council.

But after advertising for months, a suitable candidate was nowhere to be found.

“This is a brilliant idea and something we have not done before as a local authority,” said Kenrick Garraway, assistant director of the economy, at a recent cabinet meeting.

“There is a lot of interest out there, but the timing was a problem.”

Myles Cullen, cabinet member for economy, tourism and car parks, said: “There were 11 who came forward, three that were shortlisted and then one that we thought [was suitable] fell at the final hurdle.”

The shortlisted business said the timing was wrong, but cabinet member Josef Ransley worried it could be down to more than that.

“I am concerned the lack of responses is more than just ‘we’re busy at the time’,” he said.

“There was a lot of positive publicity on this project. I am nervous because of the lack of people coming forward.”

But despite the failure of the project, Mr Garraway and Cllr Cullen persuaded members to give it 
another chance.

“We want to ensure we get the best possible bid,” said Mr Garraway.

“Which of the providers will have the biggest impact on the local economy.

“If we did not think it was a viable project we would not have put it forward.”

He was also keen to make sure the £75,000 grant from the county council was put to good use.

He said it must be spent by March 31, 2014 or ‘it’s lost’.

“I want that money going into the Chichester district rather than somewhere else,” he said.

Cllr Cullen also hoped the cabinet would look favourably on the proposal to readvertise.

“The point of it is to help local businesses. Looking at the solutions and problems local producers come across.

“We decided we would go down this route because we had a shop available that we own, and because county had given us £75,000 towards the project.

“Now it is a matter of where to go from here. I recommend that we readvertise to seek further offers.”

Other options which arose included turning the vacant shop, which was the old tourist information centre, into a community shop.

But Mr Garraway said it would be too expensive.

Eileen Lintell said: “It is actually costing us money, and we are spending quite a bit of officers’ time on this.”

Despite concerns, members decided to ask senior officers to reevaluate the scheme before deciding to readvertise.