Is a ‘second city centre’ emerging at Barnfield Drive?

An early artist's impression of what the park being built as part of the development could look like
An early artist's impression of what the park being built as part of the development could look like

A STARK warning has been sounded over the threat that an emerging retail development east of the city could pose to Chichester’s high street.

Retail expert GVA, commissioned by Chichester District Council to assess the impact of the Barnfield Drive site as part of a long-standing and highly contentious planning application, found it could ‘become a competing shopping destination with the city centre’.

The last day of Chichester Food Fare ENGSUS00120130109131829

The last day of Chichester Food Fare ENGSUS00120130109131829

GVA consequently estimated town-centre shops ‘would be set to lose around £20m of retail expenditure in the next five years’.

However, in response to this, retail planning company Savills supported the application, saying its impact would not be significant. It argued that with retail space limited in the town, the new development would foster better competition.

Council planners chose to grant outline planning permission to Phase 2 of the redevelopment of the former landfill site at the end of last week.

That application, which is still subject to full planning permission, is to build a new superstore measuring more than 7,000sq m (bigger than the existing Sainsbury’s), along with other retail units and a petrol station.

Phase 1 of the application for land adjacent to the existing Homebase store, which had already secured outline planning permission, is for the erection of non-food units totalling 6,039sq m, an external garden centre and kiosk along with parking, as well as a new landscaped riverside park.

Developer Brookhouse Group Ltd has indicated no more than one supermarket would be built on the entire site, which is owned by

Chichester District Council.

With retail outlets certain to increase outside the city, will this produce a ‘second city centre’ to rival what we have?

‘Negative impact on the city centre’

As part of the latest application for Barnfield Drive, commercial property consultants GVA found the cumulative impact of the new supermarket alone would take five per cent of profits away from the city centre, equating to £18.9m.

The report, written by Matthew Morris, said: “The Phase 2 proposal at Barnfield Drive will add a further level of negative financial impact upon the city centre on top of the impacts associated with Phase 1 and the other retail commitments in the local area.

“While the proportionate impact levels outlined above may appear small on face value, the city centre would be set to lose around £20m of retail expenditure in the next five years.”

It found the predicted retail floorspace at Barnfield Drive, including the existing Homebase, totalled

20,000sq m, equivalent to around one quarter of the size of the combined city centre floorspace, which provides around 73,000sq m in total.

GVA warned ‘this is not an insignificant scale of competing retail development’ and said combined with retail floorspace in the wider area, it was equivalent to ‘two thirds of the size of the city centre’.

“As a consequence of the above, I have a concern that the proposed development will have a clear negative impact upon the health of Chichester city centre,” the report warned.

GVA concluded there was ‘the increasing likelihood that the Barnfield Drive area will become a competing shopping destination with the city centre, leading to a dilution in the role of the city centre in the retail hierarchy and thus a conflict with the aims of the Development Brief for the Barnfield Drive area.’

With out-of-town shops such as Bhs, PC World and Halfords among 21 others already established at the nearby Portfield Retail Park, the very real fears are that soon there will become a ‘second city centre’.

‘No significant impact’

A response to Mr Morris’ concerns from retail planning company Savills was included in the application.

It found that: “Chichester city centre is a vital and viable attractive and historical centre. However, the layout of the centre places limitations on its ability to accommodate further growth.

“The centre has unique characteristics as a medieval city centre, focused around its cathedral and historic high street...(so) the large format requirements of many retailers cannot be accommodated in the centre without causing significant harm to its historic fabric and character.”

It said there was a queue of retailers wanting to trade in Chichester which could only be served on the outskirts of the city, noting that ‘Chichester city centre is trading extremely well’. The report found the impact a new supermarket would have on food retailers in the centre was 5.8 per cent, which it called ‘not a significant impact’.

It concluded: “The proposed development is considered to be sustainable and the planning application should be supported at the earliest opportunity.”

Offering something different

Clearly what is needed from our out-of-town shopping is something different from what’s on offer on our high street.

But with massive superstores now selling goods like clothes, CDs, books and electrical goods as well as the usual groceries, there will always be some overlapping with what’s on offer at our smaller shops.

At Thursday’s planning committee meeting, neighbourhood groups and councillors raised concerns over the higher volumes of traffic the completed site would bring.

The City Centre Partnership strongly objected to the application, arguing that proposed housing developments at Old Park Farm, the Portfield Football Ground and at Shopwykes Lakes would add to pressure on St James’ Road and make Chichester ‘impossible to get into’.

Do you think Chichester’s city centre will be adversely affected by the Barnfield Drive development?

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