Ancient sloe fair rights may halt multi-storey car park In Chichester

Chichester's annual Sloe Fair could stand in the way of proposals for a new multi-storey car park in the city.

Rights going back some 900 years could potentially block any plans to build a new facility in the car park at Northgate, which is on the shortlist as a site for a new multi-storey to help meet a predicted shortfall in parking spaces.

No decision has yet been made on whether to build a multi-storey car park, but two possible sites are being considered.

One is at the Cattle Market car park and the other at Northgate, where the annual Sloe Fair takes place every October.

In the 12th century, King Henry I gave Ralph, Bishop of Chichester, the right to hold a fair on the land now occupied by the car park, and the event was later named after an ancient sloe tree which once stood in the area.

The fair has been held year after year down the centuries, even taking place in wartime, when a small event was held to ensure the ancient right was not lost.

The district council's parking forum agreed to ask for a legal investigation to be carried out into the holding of the fair at the car park.

This was to see whether there was any possibility of the car park being developed as a multi-storey, 'notwithstanding the rights of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain to hold the annual Sloe Fair on that site'.

Meanwhile, a cost warning over the construction of a multi-storey at the Cattle Market was given.

A report issued after the forum's meeting, and presented to the council's executive board, said several members expressed their concern over the idea of building a multi-storey and closing selected central car parks at the same time, with a view to selling them for development.

"It was pointed out Chichester had an ageing population, and that it was vital parking remained available close to the central shopping facilities," it added.

"Responding to these concerns, it was pointed out considerable damage was being caused to the historic environment because of the large number of vehicles travelling into the centre."

The gateway car parks provided parking spaces within easy walking distance of the city centre.

Council officers said the cost of building a multi-storey at the Cattle Market would be 'huge', and it was not apparent where funding for such a proposal would come from.

If the closure and sale of some central car parks was ruled out, this would make funding for such a scheme even more difficult to achieve.

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