Need to know

Members of the executive committee of the Chichester Society recently discussed the proposed alterations to Little London Walk to create a single retail unit.

This followed earlier discussions with the site’s landlord, developer and architect, and also took into account the various articles and correspondence that had appeared in the Observer.

The executive committee has decided it will not formally object to the planning application as it feels it cannot object in strict planning terms.

However, we are writing to Chichester District Council to express our regret at the further loss in the city of shop units for small independent traders.

A walk along the four principal streets of the city centre presents an almost unbroken run of shops that are part of national (not to say multi-national) chains.

Chichester is in danger of becoming just another ‘clone town’ – some may consider that it already has done.

Independent local retailers are now largely confined to a number of peripheral areas (Crane Street, St Martin’s, and the far ends of South and East Streets for example).

It would be naive not to recognise the current position is largely due to the basic laws of economics.

City-centre retail space on the principal streets is at a premium price.

Landlords will doubtless argue that they have to charge realistic rents at a price the market will bear, they themselves are not charities.

It therefore would seem to fall on others in this city to take a broader view of the local economy and ways of encouraging independent retailers to prosper.

The Chichester Society, and I suspect many residents of Chichester, would like to know how our three councils (city, district and county) propose to respond to this deteriorating situation.

We can all recall stances where their overlapping jurisdictions seemingly make any solution very difficult to achieve: think of the continuing rash of A-boards and unlicensed stall-holders across the city centre.

Let’s be optimistic and envisage the three councils working together on this: for there’s no shortage of advice, as we know from the Mary Portas Review.

Could this mean the district’s economic development team applying urgent measures with and through the City Centre Partnership?

If so, please tell us through the pages of the Observer: we need to know!

Richard Childs

Chairman

The Chichester Society