Plans to lure City bankers and hedge funds to Chichester

Could this be the future of Chichester if City bankers and hedge funds are attracted to West Sussex? SUS-150615-154736001
Could this be the future of Chichester if City bankers and hedge funds are attracted to West Sussex? SUS-150615-154736001

Plans to lure City bankers and hedge funds to Chichester have been put forward to help boost the West Sussex economy.

West Sussex County Council is hoping to pitch the city as an ‘alternative centre for high-end finance’ for smaller firms who might want to move out of expensive properties in Mayfair and other parts of London.

Could this be the future of Chichester if City bankers and hedge funds are attracted to West Sussex? SUS-150615-154736001

Could this be the future of Chichester if City bankers and hedge funds are attracted to West Sussex? SUS-150615-154736001

It is looking to unlock private investment to build a dark fibre network in Chichester to deliver some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country.

Discussions have already started with individuals who live in the area but commute to the capital to work in funds, high-end finance and professional services.

The idea is similar to what happened in the US during the 1970s where many of the residents in Greenwich, Connecticut, commuted to Manhattan to work for hedge funds, and were persuaded to move their operations out of New York.

Members of WSCC’s Environmental and Community Services Select Committee were given an update on economic priorities at Chichester’s County Hall on Wednesday June 10.

Caroline Haynes, a director at KPMG working with WSCC as a consultant on its economic plans, explained that Lord March is a big supporter of the project and has hosted an event to introduce major business heads in West Sussex to the idea.

They were not hoping ‘flash boy Michael Lewis traders go down to Chichester’, but were ‘extremely serious’ about creating the most advanced broadband network in the country.

The economic project has been prompted by the fact that West Sussex had a lower Gross Value Added (GVA) than many of its neighbours, and an ageing population, with the proportion of 25-44-year-olds shrinking.

The county council’s other ideas include a campaign called ‘Beautiful Outdoors’ to market West Sussex as a tourist destination for cyclists and walkers from London, a temporary village built from old shipping containers in the University of Chichester’s Bognor Regis Campus providing space for small and start-up creative businesses, and a project to create a bioengineering centre of excellence.

It is also setting up growth or development boards in each district or borough to make sure the area capitalises on Government funding through the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Each area would develop its own ‘place plan’, which would feed into a West Sussex-wide growth strategy.

This would be a key tool for WSCC as it looks to push the Government for the devolution of powers to local authorities in the South East.

At last Wednesday’s meeting Simon Oakley (Con, Chichester East) expressed concern that they did not subsidise bankers coming to Chichester.

Louise Goldsmith (Con, Chichester West), leader of WSCC, said they would be ‘very careful with the county council’s money, but sometimes you have to invest a little bit to get a lot more’.

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