Major improvements proposed for Chichester’s highly-popular Priory Park have moved a big step closer.
Chichester city councillors voted 7-3 in favour of pressing ahead to the next stage, which will include a public meeting when local people can have their say.
There were strong arguments for and against the £500,000 project at a city council meeting.
Cllr Mick Shone said: “We should be bold and give this as a Christmas present to the people of Chichester and the rest of the district.”
And Cllr Richard Plowman declared; “This is a unique opportunity, and it will benefit a huge number of people in Chichester and visitors to the city.”
The idea is the scheme will be financed with a fixed-interest loan from the Public Works Loan Board. The aim is to pay this back with income received by the council from the refurbished Butter Market, and not via the city council tax precept.
The council decided to set up a working group to take the matter forward.
The loan application will be made at an ‘appropriate time’, under the national ‘power of well-being’ initiative.
Cllr Plowman said the project was a bold commitment which could affect the lives and well-being of a large proportion of the people of Chichester.
It included new railings, better toilets, a new pavilion and a cafe.
Cllr Derek James said he appreciated the proposals had merit, but did not feel they were a real necessity in the current climate. “I am not in favour of borrowing this sort of money at this time,” he added.
Finance committee chairman Tony French also opposed the project. Money being spent on paying back the loan would be better spent on other things, he argued.
The main beneficiaries would not be Cicestrians but the people of the district, who played games in the park.
But Cllr Martyn Bell said this was a window of opportunity to really do something about Priory Park, which was slowly deteriorating.
Cllr Shone said the project was a brilliant idea.