Chichester car free day organisers conduct survey after backlash sparked 'emergency meetings'

Campaigner Mark Record's car free day idea has been supported by city councillor Sarah Sharp
Campaigner Mark Record's car free day idea has been supported by city councillor Sarah Sharp

Plans to hold a car free day in the city this month look set to go ahead, despite threats of a protest by some residents.

A section of South Street will be closed to motor vehicle traffic between 12.30 and 3.30pm on Sunday, September 22 — International Global Car Free Day, as part of campaigner Mark Record and city councillor Sarah Sharp’s vision to trial a scheme inside the city walls one Sunday a month to make the city more safe. Read more here

Following the backlash from some residents and businesses, organisers held two 'emergency meetings', in which they decided to survey the businesses in the area.

Mark said: “Our organisers were told that some shops were opposed the event and that might be ill feeling if it went ahead.

“We concluded that we should cancel the event if we had less than two thirds of South Street's businesses [in support]. On Saturday morning, we visited all the majority of shops in the area where traffic will be controlled. We were relieved to discover that out of 56 business surveyed, 47 supported the event.

“Our survey indicates that the event has 83.9 per cent support from the South Street business community.

“Our group now feel confident that if an independent team repeated a similar survey, they would report greater than two thirds support.

"We accept that this result will have bias as the people conducting the survey were the organisers and this may have influenced how shops responded. However our group now feel confident that if an independent team repeated a similar survey, they would report greater than two thirds support."

Mark said three shops objected 'because they fear they will experience reduced trade during the event'.

He added: "We understand this concern but campaigners believe an increase in trade is more likely during the event but only time can truly reveal the reality.

"The Chichester Vision document outlines a Car Free South Street. One of the aims of holding car free days in the city is to explore which parts of the 'Chichester Vision' are viable.

"Our view is it will better for us to try out pedestrianisation on car free days and discover potential issues and concerns before our local authorities implement permanent changes."

The event organisers are now holding a 'community meeting' on Sunday, September 15 from 7 to 8.30 pm at Muchos Nachos at the Crown, Whyke Road, 'in order to discuss peoples aspirations or concerns about the event'.

People are invited to contact info@carfreechi.org.uk if they wish to raise matters in advance of the meeting.