ONE of the world’s biggest brands which proudly associates itself with Chichester has been forced to expand out of district. Did you think I wouldn’t have an opinion on this?!
Commercially speaking, we are in an interesting little enclave here in the Chichester district.
We have some phenomenal businesses here: from world-renowned brands such as Goodwood, Rolls-Royce, Oceanair and the sadly recently-demised Northshore, to the nationally-known brands such as Checkatrade and Montezuma.
The level of commercial knowledge and experience in the locale is awe-inspiring. So we should be proud of it and nurture it. But there is also a sense of pride this area instils and this we must not forget – nor damage.
There is a reason why Rolls-Royce Motor Cars decided to build their factory in our vicinity and there is a reason why Goodwood has become a world-renowned destination. So I ask this... How many more businesses, on the trajectory of reaching national and international recognition, will also pose the question to our planners to be able to expand within district?
We must not stand in the way of progress. It is naive to think we can keep the district in aspic and make no changes. Darwin would have a word or two about that. But we need to ask ourselves what the area will look like in 15 to 20 years, with the extreme focus our planners have put on developing housing stock in this area. Not only will it affect house prices if there is too much on offer, but where will these people work?
How many more of our local, growing, successful companies will be forced out of district to expand; taking jobs with them? The Chamber of Commerce never involves itself in issues of residential planning, but where we do get noisy is when business, productivity and commercialism is affected. Ticking a ‘commercial’ box on a housing application is not about providing a corner shop. It’s about providing land for employment and business development.
Why did Rolls-Royce need to go out of district to expand, taking at least 200 jobs with it? Of course we’re delighted they’re still in the area, but did ‘we’ really do enough to find them the land they needed here, in the Chichester district? And how on earth can we be seriously challenging the heritage, reputation and profitability of Goodwood with a housing development at the bottom of the circuit?
In my view… we need to take a step back and find the right perspective.
Louise Hopkins, chairman, Chichester Chamber of Commerce and Industry