VOTE: City councillors reject last-minute offer to light up Chichester

A last-minute offer of £15,000 to help light up Chichester city centre over the remaining festive period came ‘too late in the day’.

Graylingwell developers Linden Homes stepped in last Wednesday and announced they would provide the cash, but on Tuesday night city councillors unanimously agreed there was not enough time left to check over the lights, provide new bulbs where necessary, and fix them all in position.

Councillors also agreed it would be ‘inappropriate’ to take such a large donation from the development company but have said they will suggest Linden Homes might be interested in providing a smaller amount next year, along with other businesses in the city, to ensure a display.

The city council set a deadline of September 30, 2010, for businesses to contribute £15,000 towards the lights, matching a similar sum set aside by the council itself. The cash was not forthcoming.

“How Linden Homes can say they did not know there was a Chichester lights problem until now, I cannot understand,” said finance committee chairman Cllr Tony French.

“If they were willing to give a sum of money next year as a base for a Chamber of Commerce or City Centre Partnership initiative, with us, that would be appropriate.”

Cllr French added: “This came far, far too late.”

Council electrical contractors had confirmed how long it would take to test all the lights and put them up, and the idea was a non-starter.

Cllr Mick Shone said that as the city council was a statutory consultee in planning, he felt it would be inappropriate for it to take such a huge donation from a developer.

Cllr Richard Plowman said it was too late to accept the offer, coming from one firm.

“The lights are for the benefit of all retailers in Chichester, and we want them all to contribute, not one coming in at the last minute as a saviour, when the deadline was September 30,” he added.

“We need to get all of the businesses involved, not just one business.”

Cllr John Rankin said what was wanted was a regular manner to provide lights year on year.

“If this firm is offering to pay 50 per cent for the next 10 years, that would be interesting,” he told the council.

Linden Homes got involved after seeing a story about the shortfall of cash for the city’s Christmas lights on the television, and said it had made the offer because it believed in ‘strong community spirit’.

Managing director for the company’s south east department, Steve Bangs said: “It’s such a shame that after so many years Chichester would be without its Christmas lights, so we wanted to step in and help so residents and visitors alike will be able to enjoy a glittering city centre this Christmas.”