I FIND myself in slightly strange territory of having to partly agree with Duncan Barkes.
There are still in Chichester and the surrounding area places to eat that remain independent and try to push the envelope of cooking.
One has to agree however that in the centre of Chichester, as with most town centres and shopping centres, we could be said to be suffering from ‘corporate blandness’, not only in eating places but in many retail outlets.
The reason is blindingly simple: it is only the corporate entities with the financial resources that can afford the rents, council tax, employee costs, VAT, utility costs etc that make up the costs of doing business in a town centre.
However this influx of chains in a way is not all bad.
They perhaps occupy an otherwise vacant site and pay their taxes (we hope!), and employ staff.
They also offer a ‘safe’ option for eating – that is not meant to be critical.
However you have to wonder whether this is what Chichester wants, or if it is what the corporates tell us we need.
Successive governments have had no discernible strategy for the hospitality industry.
We have a rate of VAT on hospitality which is one of the highest in Europe.
We have one of the highest rates of excise duty on alcohol in Europe.
The council has to look at its strategy for the centre of Chichester.
In particular, how many eating and drinking places can Chichester actually support?
I estimate within walking distance of the Cross there are more than 100!
Surely enough is enough.
There are only so many people that can physically get into Chichester.
This might not be an issue if the council keeps putting up the cost of parking!
The Observer and its sister papers do their bit to promote local business.
However, the Observer Business Awards last year gave the Best Eating Award to Jamie’s Italian in Portsmouth.
Small businesses cannot cope against that level of corporate competition.
Surely the award should be for independents only.
When I arrived in Chichester over ten years ago, what struck me was the number and variety of independent retail outlets and eating places.
As with every business: if you don’t use it you will lose it.
D H Casson