Transformation of Fernleigh Centre backed by Chichester councillors

The transformation of a building in Chichester which was home to a number of voluntary services has won backing from community leaders.

Two alternative schemes involving a restaurant and offices for the former Fernleigh Centre received strong support from city councillors.

The city council’s planning and conservation committee heard a presentation by representatives of new owners Kingsbridge Estates Ltd, which bought the building from West Sussex County Council earlier this year.

The committee agreed to raise no objection to either application, and welcomed the proposals, saying they would enhance a keynote building.

Some members also called for the name Fernleigh to be retained if possible.

A formal application for 100 per cent office use of the North Street building has been submitted to Chichester District Council as well as a second, alternative plan, involving a restaurant on the ground floor with office use upstairs.

Company representative Harry Groucott told the city council committee a hotel or shopping use could also be possibilities instead, depending on market demand.

He said both of the alternative planning applications sought to retain the quality of the existing building, which is Grade II listed, and dates back to 1723. There was also an opportunity to tidy up at the rear.

“The challenge is to put something in which will respect the building and maintain its quality,” said Mr Groucott.

“Numerous options include shopping and a hotel were being looked at.

“Ultimately it will be a market-driven solution.”

City mayor Cllr Michael Woolley said he was very sympathetic to the proposals and liked the idea of maintaining and upgrading the existing building.

Cllr Derek James said there was a shortage of office space in the city, but a plethora of restaurants and coffee shops.

Cllr Barbara Henry said she liked the idea of a restaurant use because it would ensure public access to this quality building.

Chairman Cllr Richard Plowman said the proposals showed a sympathetic understanding of the building.

“Whatever the use, it is right that the options are kept open at the moment,” he said.