Priory Park 'wrong place' for Chichester ice rink city councillors argue at extraordinary meeting
Debate over the pros and cons of plans for a temporary ice rink at Chichester's Priory Park has continued this week.
Despite receiving majority support in a vote last week, on Monday (October 29) city councillors expressed their concerns with new plans for alcohol to be sold at the venue at an extraordinary meeting.
A number of members felt Priory Park was an inappropriate location for the attraction, which would be housed in a marquee with a cafe, changing facilities and skate hire facility south west of the Guildhall, alongside festive food and drink concession stalls, planned to run from early November to late January.
Councillors raised concerns about whether the site was the correct location due to the impact it would have on residents and questioned if an alcohol licence was appropriate.
Mayor Martyn Bell, whose motion prompted the extraordinary meeting, said: "I called this meeting because some councillors, including myself, are very concerned about proposals for a temporary six week ice rink in Priory Park.
"I personally am not against an ice rink in Chichester. Priory Park, in my view, is the wrong place.
"If it is a family and child friendly event, then why do they need an alcohol licence?"
This was echoed by Cllr Clare Apel, who said to put an ice rink in Priory Park would the 'most tactless thing to do'.
She added: "We have just had the most amazing commemoration of the First World War and that park was given to citizens of Chichester to commemorate what happened here.
"For them now to be putting an ice rink here seems to be the height of a lack of diplomacy and I am not happy about it.
"The timings in the licensing are absolutely insane. I happen to be a city angel and we go out after half past ten at night to pick up the pieces for people who have drunk too much or who are in a really bad state. This is going to cause significant problems for the city.
"I totally agree with you Mr Mayor and I can only hope our recommendation is heard by the district council."
The retail sale of alcohol and recorded music is planned to run from 10am to 8.30pm on Mondays to Thursdays and from 9am to 10pm on Fridays to Sundays.
The retail sale of alcohol, recorded and live music and late night refreshment on Christmas Eve will run from 9am to 11.30pm and New Year's Eve from 9am to as late as 1am.
Before councillors debated the issue, residents were allowed to read out their pre-written and submitted questions at the meeting.
Sophie Hull, one of the many members of the public watching on during the meeting, suggested that businesses in the city will be 'undermined'.
She added: "It is planned that seven outside concessions in pagodas and a café inside the ice rink would be licensed to sell food and alcohol during the operating hours of the rink. Surely, it will not bring business to the city centre but undermine it.
"Visitors will go to the rink, skate, eat drink and go home. The established businesses and independents will be adversely affected."
Resident Edward Milward-Oliver raised concerns about the 'security of Priory Park's historical assets'.
He added: "The proposed rink would cover 21,000 square feet and curtail the normal use of the park for over half a year.
"There are implications with respect of the impact of the substantial 24 hour generator and chillers required. If approved, it raises issues with potential alcohol driven anti-social behaviour in Priory Park and neighbouring residential streets."
Guy Knight feared the detrimental effect of recorded music, which he said will be played for more than 80 hours every week.
Ralph Apel, member of Chichester Conservation Advisor Committee (CCAAC), asked when the council will 'take cognisance' and 'act upon the unanimous decision' of the CCAAC to recommend the refusal of planning permission for an ice rink in Priory Park.
He added: "Who will pay the clear-up charge, the cost of re-seeding and then protecting the area until it is fully restored? There will be a loss of income due to other people who would have used the area. It is the siting of a rink in priory park that is the issue and not that of having an ice rink somewhere in the city a proposition with which we all concurred."
The city council as a consultee offered no objection at a meeting on October 10, but that decision was made prior to the alcohol and music licensing applications (October 12).
Cllr Richard Plowman said the original information they had was 'very thin'.
He added: "It was very early on in the process. We had very little information to base the decision on. There were no objectors to the application then but we now know there are 31."
Adding to the councillor debate, Anne Scicluna said she was 'very concerned' about the plans.
She added: "I am concerned about children being around places where alcohol is on sale. I am concerned about other vulnerable people like elderly people. The plan for music both recorded and live concerns me greatly.
"There a number of homes around Priory Park and many of them do have residents who are not as young as they used to be. We do have things happen in Priory Park, and these people can maybe leave the city for a long weekend if they don't want to listen to music all the time, but it would be totally impractical to expect them to go away for six weeks."
Cllr Peter Evans agreed, stressing that he is not a 'killjoy' and people 'should enjoy themselves', but said the location of the ice rink in Priory Park is 'inappropriate'.
He added: "People will be affected. It would be better served somewhere like Market Street car park, which is owned by the CDC and is used for market and car boot sales.
"I am all for supporting businesses in Chichester and I'd like to see them benefit from this but I do feel there is a better location. Let's see if we can find a pragmatic way forward."
Cllr Julian Joy and Cllr Plowman both claimed the process has been 'rushed through' with the city council being afforded 'very little consultation'.
Mr Plowman added that a family event 'doesn't need alcohol' and 'works against' what the event is trying to achieve.
He also raised the problem of there being 'only one way out' into a 'private residential area'.
Cllr Peter Budge and Cllr Margaret Evans also asked if a full alcohol licence is 'really needed' for a 'family event'.
Cllr Tony French said Priory Park would be the 'entirely wrong site' and worried it would cause 'permanent damage' to the grass.
On the other hand, some councillors saw positives in the plans.
Cllr Les Hixson said: "I am very much in favour of this plan. I have taken the trouble to visit many other cities in England and I have seen the success of these events.
"All of them have been an amazing success. Yes it is bad when people go there just to drink alcohol but many will be there to skate, not to drink. It is not the summer, it will be cold.
"We will be very busy and the city needs it. People will spend one or two hours at the ice rink and then wander into the city. There are no road safety issues and parking is very good for this area."
Cllr Len Macey agreed that it is the 'right location'.
"It is in the city centre. People are not going to drink there and drink six pints," he said.
"What's wrong with the parents having a glass of wine or a pint whilst their kids are on the ice for an hour or so? There is no night life in Chichester, all we have is a few pubs."
Cllr Tony Digum agreed it would benefit the businesses in the city at a time where retail is 'under the greatest possible pressure'.
Cllr Nigel Galloway said Chichester 'needs footfall in the city' whilst it could be 'make or break' for traders and shopkeepers but said Oaklands Park or Westergate fields may have been more appropriate in hindsight.
Cllr Sarah Sharp also acknowledged that there may be a better location, but said to cancel the plans would bring far too much 'disappointment' to people who showed 'sheer joy' at plans for an ice rink in Chichester.
Deputy mayor Trevor Tupper said he did not believe Priory Park is the right location but feared 'nothing can be done' to change the situation at this stage.
He added: "It is very unfortunate we didn't have this information before."
The mayor's motion, which called on the district council not to grant a licence to sell alcohol in and around the ice rink, was passed with a vote of 10-6.
This will now lead to a formal recommendation to the district council — the decision making body and licensing authority — with officers expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.
Representations from any party on the alcohol licence will be considered up to November 9 and the deadline for representations on planning is tomorrow (October 31).