Fears have been expressed about the time taken to attract businesses to a revamped shopping area in the city – but community leaders say good news is to come.
The city council has promised negotiations are at an early stage over some of the remaining units inside the imposing Grade II listed Butter Market in North Street.
The historic building, designed by architect John Nash, was transformed into a high-end shopping area and opened last April after extensive refurbishment, but some residents claim that after months of operation, it is looking painfully empty with just three of the eight units occupied.
Local people have said although they liked the way it had been spruced up, they were concerned it was taking so long to find tenants for the units.
Resident Rachel North said: “They have done a really good job on doing the building up, and it looks okay at the front because the two spaces there are occupied. But when you go inside, it just looks empty. It’s a shame because it’s a good location, I guess things are tough for businesses at the moment.”
Tim Matthews, who works in the centre of Chichester, said: “I think it’s just the climate at the moment. It was nice as it was, they should have invested more into what was there already. They need to get the right shops in there.”
Resident Michael Funnell said: “They are too expensive. Patisserie Valerie is very nice but ridiculously over-priced. They have made it too upmarket.
“It was nicer as it was, you could go in there and gets lots of bits and pieces, they had a sewing shop and the Women’s Institute.”
Another shopper said: “I took my mum in there and there is nothing for normal, average people. It’s not really what we want in Chichester.”
The city council vowed that negotiations were continuing and an update would be given at the next meeting of the city council’s finance committee, which meets next Wednesday.
Councillor Richard Plowman, chairman of the city council’s finance committee, said: “We are hoping to have some good news at our next meeting.
“It’s been a difficult commercial market out there. At the moment we are hoping for much better news about the rest of the Butter Market.
“I think it is a question of finding the right tenants and at the moment if you look around the city there are places which are empty and changing hands. The tenants in there have been excellent so far and we hope we will have good news very shortly.”
In October the finance committee received an update that a meeting had taken place between the city council and the lettings agents of the Butter Market, Hughes Ellard and Henry Adams. A letter was received about a proposal for unit three.
The first business to move in was national eatery chain Patisserie Valerie, which is situated at the back of the Butter Market, while in June two jewellers, Pressleys and Etcetera, moved in to the front two units on the ground floor.
Last year Chichester City Council clerk Rodney Duggua said the empty shops were not costing the taxpayer any money and that the council had not expected to see the Butter Market reach its full potential for at least 18 months.