Amendments to Chichester retail park spark fears for future

Chichester, picture by Louise Adams
Chichester, picture by Louise Adams

THE CENTRE of Chichester could be ‘killed off’ within years, if an alteration to a proposed retail park gets the thumbs up.

This is the view of the Richmond Park residents’ association, whose chairman, Tony Tavinor, has objected strongly to changes to the retail park which is set to be constructed on the land near Homebase at Barnfield Drive.

Built by the Brookhouse Group Ltd, the scheme has planning permission, but this week an application has been made to vary some of the conditions – including allowing the minimum size of units to be decreased.

Mr Tavinor wrote in his objection of the ‘serious danger that changes to policies will be used as a precedent when the further developments associated with this scheme are submitted’.

He called on the district council to refuse the application.

He wrote: “Chichester District Council prepared the policy on the 1,000sqm size of out-of-town retail, after considerable thought and with the aim of protecting the heart of city centre retail and keeping it as a main destination for local and visitor shoppers alike.

“Probably 1,000 jobs depend on the city’s continued success and vitality. Reducing the size of units ‘by just a little’ as is suggested here, is likely to be just the beginning.

“Later units might be 500sqm or even smaller, thereby competing directly with city centre retailers, but having the advantage of lower rent and rate costs.”

He warn on behalf of the residents’ association of the danger of ‘opening the floodgates’ by setting a precedent whereby out-of-town retailers could seek variations to planning applications.

“Should that happen, the centre of Chichester would be killed off in a very few years,” he wrote.

An outline planning application for the non-food retail development was originally given the green light in October, 2012, and would cover more than 6,000sqm on the former landfill and quarry site.

It was estimated at the time of the application the scheme would create the equivalent of 100 full-time jobs and was described at the time as ‘imaginative and sympathetic’ by councillors when it came before the planning committee at the district council.

Planning officers recommended approval of the outline application, with the committee voting 11-1 in favour.

Prior to submitting plans, the Brookhouse Group Ltd held a number of consultations with residents and at the time said it took a number of comments on board.

Variations to the outline application were discussed behind closed doors at a district council cabinet meeting in April this year, in part two of the meeting from which the press and public were excluded.

This would normally happen because ‘exempt’ information such as financial information would be discussed.

The variations to the outline application can be viewed by searching 13/02216/OUT on the district council’s website.