Chichester ‘needs to deliver Christmas better’

Chichester needs to ‘deliver Christmas better’, a district council committee has been told.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 5:03 pm
Last year's Christmas lights in North Street
Last year's Christmas lights in North Street

The weather may be scorching as thoughts of summer holidays approach but there was talk of the festive season during a meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on Tuesday (June 15).

The conversation centred around plans to renew the  Chichester Business Improvement District (BID) for another five years.

The BID is a business-led and business-funded body which was set up in 2012 to help improve the area through a range of projects and services.

It collects around £300,000 per year from levy payers – including the £14,000 paid by the council – and over the years has joint-funded the City Rangers, paid for flags and hanging baskets in the city, given businesses a voice when it came to lobbying the council – and provided Christmas lights.

The latter was an area which CEO Helen Marshall felt could be improved.

Ms Marshall, who was appointed in December, nine months after the previous CEO left, said: “Christmas, I believe, is a missed opportunity in the city and we need to deliver Christmas better.

“We want to build on the success of the Christmas lights installation and deliver a series of events during the four late nights leading up to Christmas, turning the city into a must-see evening destination over that period.”

She also spoke about driving more footfall into Chichester and introducing a rolling calendar of events, including more family events.

The BID is in its second term, having been renewed in 2017. If agreed, it’s third term will start in 2022.

Most of the committee members supported the idea of renewing the BID, adding some of their own thoughts about things which could be improved.

Suggestions included: improving the night-time economy, introducing better facilities for older residents while also working with the college and university to make the city attractive to the young, encouraging independent shops and supporting innovative markets.

The night-time economy and younger residents were high on the list for some councillors.

Tracie Bangert (Lib Dem, Southbourne) said: “What I don’t want to see is Chichester becoming a retirement place, kept in aspic and having no life whatsoever – where all students return back to wherever they came from once they finish their degrees – because we will not survive if we don’t keep people here.

“We need to provide some facilities for young people.”

This prompted a plea from one of the officers for the councillors to be ‘positive’ when it came to licensing issues as there had been a ‘lot of opposition’ to applications.

There were doubts from Carol Purnell (Con, Sidlesham & Selsey North), who wondered if some of the work was being duplicated elsewhere and suggested that much of the BID was of ‘no additional value’ to Chichester.

BID chairman Derek Marsh was quick to retort, pointing out ‘all the things the city would not get if the BID did not exist’ – not least of which was the c£300,000 which would be invested in the city every year for five years.

Ms Marshall added: “Without the BID there would be no Christmas lights, there would be no flags, there would be no bunting, there would be no Business Crime Partnership which provides much-needed support to retailers who have been hit by shoplifting.

“We do contribute to the city floral displays, we do give hands-on support in the city. The relationship managers are pounding the pavements daily in the city to support the shopkeepers in any of the challenges that happen day-to-day.

“I do believe that we offer an incremental set of benefits that otherwise the city’s businesses would not benefit from if the BID were not to exist.”

The committee agreed to recommend to the cabinet that the renewal be supported.