Campaigner celebrates Wagamama’s arrival in Chichester

Rich Evans, Helen Beal and Dave Stares outside the building soon to become a Wagamama in South Street
Rich Evans, Helen Beal and Dave Stares outside the building soon to become a Wagamama in South Street

NOODLE lovers have been celebrating after a Wagamama restaurant was given the green light to open in Chichester.

The Japanese eatery was denied planning permission in South Street by Chichester District Council in December, with the council citing too many restaurants within the shopping district.

However, the decision has been overturned by a planning inspector – who gave it the go ahead.

The decision was hailed as ‘fantastic’ by Helen Beal, a Chichester author who launched a petition to bring the chain restaurant to the city.

“We’ve got a good range of restaurants in Chichester, but I think there’s a gap for a restaurant like this,” she said, adding she was ‘very excited’ about its opening.

Her petition gathered 818 signatures in support of the restaurant.

“I actually wrote to Wagamama several months before asking them to come to Chichester,” she said.

She added she ‘can’t wait’ to go to the new restaurant when it opens.

Planning officers were concerned the store, which will be in the now-empty building previously occupied by Store Twenty One, would mean more than 15m of continuous non-retail shop fronts within the ‘primary shopping frontage area’ of the city.

However, the planning inspector’s report said despite a ‘robust marketing exercise’, a retailer had not been found willing to take on the empty shop.

“Dismissal of the appeal would therefore be likely to result in the unit remaining vacant, which would be detrimental to the viability and vitality of the city centre,” wrote the inspector.

“On the other hand I conclude that allowing the appeal would be likely to secure an early use for the premises, which would have a beneficial effect on the viability and vitality of the city centre.”

CDC had opposed the change in status of the building from a retail unit to a catering unit and was concerned it could set a precedent for the city centre.

Noting this, the inspector said: “It is most unlikely that exactly the same circumstances would be replicated in future.”

The building in South Street was marketed from June, 2012, which included advertising on the internet, in newspapers and a display board on the building.

By March, 2013, the agent only received one offer from a prospective retailer – which the inspector said was at a level that was considered to be ‘well below’ market rental levels.