TOURISTS visiting Chichester city centre would find it ‘run-down and dirty’.
This is the consensus from a working party set up to examine what could be done to boost tourism in the Chichester district.
A stinging cricism of the city centre was launched by the group’s leader, Cllr Gordon McAra, who said there was a ‘staggering amount’ of tourist destinations across the Chichester district.
“We’re punching above our height and weight in the Chichester district as far as that goes,” he told Chichester District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday (July 3) as he gave a progress report.
“The converse is that we’re doing that badly.
“If you look at Chichester city centre, it’s dire.
“It’s run-down, it’s dirty and signage is wrong.”
He said it was time action was taken to make the city centre more presentable for tourists, as day-to-day residents and visitors failed to notice areas that were letting down the city.
“I say this because we all walk around and we look at it every day and it doesn’t register,” he said.
Cllr McAra headed up a task and finish group that was created in January to look at expanding the visitor economy.
The group consists of Cllr McAra, as well as councillors Clare Apel, Nick Thomas, Bev Tinson and Norma Graves.
Councillors at the committee agreed with the group’s findings so far.
“I’m forced to agree with Cllr McAra,” said Cllr Simon Lloyd-Williams.
“The environment in the centre of Chichester, which most people see when they visit Chichester, compared to other destinations, is poor to say the least.”
Cllr Apel added: “When we did the walk around the city, the signing was dire.”
Councillors said signs throughout the city were wrong, frequently covered with moss and illegible.
The Chichester BID has been planning new signage for the city to advertise it to visitors and tourists.
Cllr Apel asked Stephen Oates, the council’s economic develoment manager, how long the issue of the signs had been ‘dragging on’.
Mr Oates replied: “There’s no tactful way to put this. I first saw drafts in August last year.”
He said he had an email from city centre manager Kim Long saying the signage was due to be replaced in the next two weeks.
Councillors also slammed the ‘appalling’ state of the city’s bus station.
“We could have been somewhere in Africa,” said Cllr Graves. “If it’s the first place that people arrive – as they must with their families – it’s awful.”
Cllr Apel described the bus station as ‘like an eastern bloc country in the late-40s and early-50s’.
The task and finish group described Visit Chichester, the organisation set up to market the city, as ‘not fit for purpose’, and called for a better destination management organisation.
This would allow a private and public sector group to take overall responsibility for Chichester city centre, with organisations such as Stagecoach and Southern Railway playing a key role.
See today’s Observer (July 10) for a behind the headlines feature on the need to boost tourism in the Chichester district.