Pressure rises to remove Chichester eyesore

Pressure is mounting to get rid of Chichester’s biggest eyesore, with councillors demanding urgent action.

Its owners were accused by one councillor this week of making promises which were never kept, and another described the situation as ‘an absolute disgrace’.

The two-and-a-half-acre site, in Winden Avenue, owned by Hyde Martlet, has more than 50 homes on it, which have been standing empty and decaying, surrounded by overgrown vegetation, for more than four years.

Angry local residents want them either demolished as soon as possible to make way for a new development planned by Hyde Martlet, or brought back into use.

West Sussex county councillor Margaret Whitehead, who represents the county’s Chichester south division, in which the site is located, this week wrote direct to Hyde Martlet development manager John Martin warning that residents in the locality were ‘at their wits’ end’.

“You keep making promises which you and Hyde Martlet never keep,” Cllr Whitehead told him in the letter. “I was at the meeting in March, 2012, when you yourself stated that demolition was imminent and that you intended to start in the next few weeks.

“I have a letter from Rhys Daniel dated February 22, 2012, stating that you are proceeding with arrangements for demolition. It is now SIX months since this statement and FIVE months since yours yet still no sign of anything happening.

She added: “The whole site is a mess, with tatty hoardings and an infestation of rats. It is five years since the last residents were made to leave the building. Yes, I know there were some problems but does it really take this long?

“On your website under the heading ‘Service promise – Our promise to you’ it states under item 2 ‘We will listen and communicate clearly and quickly when you get in touch’. Item 3 ‘Complaints matter and make a difference’. Where in your attitude to the residents of Winden Avenue and the surrounding area have you kept these promises?

“I, on behalf of the residents of Winden Avenue would like a response, with the date you intend to start demolition and a promise that you will keep to that date.”

City and district councillor Michael Woolley, who is chairman of the city’s planning and conservation committee, said this week it was an absolute disgrace that more than 50 homes were still vacant at the site, which was becoming more overgrown.

“There have been problems with rats and problems with squatters, and it is very understandable that the neighbours are worried,” said Cllr Woolley.

“That a housing association committed to ‘helping people get a home’ should be responsible for this makes the matter worse.”

A Hyde Martlet spokesman said: “Hyde is eager to begin work on this site and we’re doing everything we can to make it happen as soon as possible. In the meantime, we’re working with the local community to address their concerns and keeping them informed through meetings and newsletters.”