On Sunday 30th September during Priory Park 100, someone remarked it was the perfect day. There was a special drumhead remembrance service, a unique evensong in the Guildhall and a blessing of the restored plaque at the main gate by the Dean.
Priory Park looked better than it had been for many years. The 7th Duke of Richmond gave the park to the people of Chichester in 1918 for two reasons, as a place of recreation but also importantly as a perpetual war memorial.
Now within a few months a huge structure totally out of keeping and proportion for the park has appeared surrounded by a 8ft close wooded fence to absorb the noise of generators and chillers operating all day and all night, hardly a winter wonderland attraction.
It is expensive and many Chichester families will not be able to afford it. There will be music and alcohol late into the evening from the ice rink all at the expense of regular users of the park and the residents. Priory Park was entirely the wrong location for the ice rink and the grass has already been scarred by the construction of the rink, the ground will continue to be damaged during December and the removal of the heavy equipment at the end of the period will also take its toll. It will be many months before this part of the park will have recovered, if ever, for the users of the park.
The idea of the ice rink in Chichester was a good one but there were plenty of more suitable sites suggested in the city. However, many sites meant a loss of income from the city car parks for the district council.
Now we understand that the benefit to the city economy will probably only be marginal so why have we sacrificed the much loved, wonderful, historic, tranquil Priory Park to a commercial company who has never fully operated an ice rink before, especially in this centenary year commemorating the end of WWI and the huge sacrifice made for us.
How quickly we forget.
Never mind let’s have another glass of wine, mince pie, pull a cracker and Merry Christmas. Who cares, I do.
Richard Plowman, Organiser of Priory Park 100, Worcester Road, Chichester