Priory Park in Chichester ‘unsuitable for large events with stages and temporary buildings’

Damaged caused to Priory Park this summer has prompted Chichester District Council to consider changes to its Events Strategy.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 12:50 pm
Priory Park, Chichester. Photo by Derek Martin

The construction and dismantling of a stage used for musical events at the end of July – coupled with torrential rain – caused ‘serious damage’ to the park, especially the area in front of and around the White Pavilion.

During a meeting of the council on Tuesday (September 21) members supported a motion tabled by Richard Plowman (Lib Dem, Chichester North) which asked for a group to be set up to look at the operation, management and future of the park.

The motion also asked for information to be added to the Events Strategy 2020-2025 pointing out that the park was ‘unsuitable for headline and large-scale feature events’ which use stages or temporary buildings.

Mr Plowman said the council was under ‘considerable pressure to ensure the situation is not repeated and the limitations of the park for large commercial events is well understood’.

The final say on both the Task & Finish Group and the strategy changes will go to a future meeting of the cabinet.

Alan Sutton, cabinet member for licensing & events, said the strategy was a ‘living document’ which could be changed and adapted to allow for this kind of situation.

Mr Sutton assured the meeting that work to repair the damage was all but complete and the grass should be fully regrown in time for the new cricket season.

He added that the council incurred no costs for the repairs.

This was not the first time the park had been damaged by a large event – something similar happened when an ice rink was set up during the winter of 2018/19.

But a recent Rotary Club event, which attracted around 3,000 people throughout the day, left the park unscathed.

Mr Sutton said: “The council will continue to review the lessons learned from any events and will work with event organisers to deliver those events for the benefit of the local community and visitors whilst learning all the time from this to better protect the park’s infrastructure.”

He added: “I’m sure that we all agree there’s still work to be done to keep the park in its place – as often referred to – as the jewel in the crown.

“It’s not quite there at the moment, as far as I’m concerned.”

But there were a few ‘green shoots’ among a number of projects planned for the park.

A power supply is being installed which will make generators a thing of the past.

And the meeting was told that a planning pre-application had been submitted by the cricket club with a view to turning the White Pavilion into a centre of excellence for women’s cricket.

Roy Briscoe, cabinet member for community services & culture, said such a move would be ‘absolutely fantastic for this city’.

He added: “Hopefully, with the support from this council, they will be able to move that development forward and get a building that is fit for purpose.”