Having considered the content of the Review document the Society has filed the following comments and suggested changes on development principles, transport strategy, design, the Southern Gateway and land allocation.
Please refer to the original document herefor background to the comments
OnPolicy S13: Chichester City Development Principles
ChiSoc welcome the minor changes proposed which include the protection of views of the cathedral. Please note the duplication of the policy on the city’s existing heritage, arts and culture
On Policy S14: Chichester City Transport Strategy
ChiSoc propose the following additional measures are included:
Replacement of the level crossings in Basin Road and Stockbridge Road by an underpass or bridge
Safeguarding of land to enable the expansion of the Chichester railway Station, its tracks and platforms, from 2 to 4 to enable a fast train service
Safeguarding of land close to the A27 for a future “park and ride”
Safeguarding of land close to the A27 for a “consolidation centre” for break bulk delivery to city retail units.
On Policy S20: Design
ChiSoc welcome this additional policy and support its purpose in the Plan
On Policy S23: Transport and Accessibility
ChiSoc welcome this additional policy and support its purpose in the Plan.
It especially welcomes the proposed New road connecting Birdham Road to A27 Fishbourne roundabout (see Policy AL6), known as the Stockbridge Link Road when first proposed by Highways England as part of Option 2b in the 2016 Consultation.
On Policy AL5: Southern Gateway
ChiSoc propose the following changes are made:
In site specific requirement number 3 we propose “3. Respect for the historic context, have regard to that part of Southern Gateway that lies within the Conservation Area and to the Listed Buildings and Heritage Assets, and make a positive contribution towards protecting and enhancing the local character and special heritage of the area and important historic views, especially those from the Canal Basin towards Chichester Cathedral;
We propose to add as site specific requirement number 4 “provision of a bridge or underpass to allow the removal of the level crossings on Stockbridge Road and Basin Road”
We propose the removal of paragraph 7
On Policy AL6: Land South-West of Chichester (Apuldram and Donnington Parishes)
ChiSoc supports this new policy, and its land allocation.
The Preferred Approach version of the Chichester Local Plan Review has now been published for consultation as part of the preparation of the Chichester Local Plan Review, for the Chichester plan area (outside the South Downs National Park). The consultation period for the Chichester Local Plan Review – Preferred Approach (Regulation 18 of the Town and Country Planning Act (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012) will run from 13 December 2018 to 7 February 2019.
Chichester District Council (CDC) explain on their website that : “changes to the way the Government requires us to calculate future housing needs means that we now plan to build at least 650 new homes each year in the Local Plan Area, up to 2035”.
But Planning Policy requires CDC to accommodate only 609 new homes each year; however, in addition, they are under a duty to add an allowance “for accommodating unmet need arising from the Chichester District part of the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).”
The SDNPA have a shortfall of 41 dwellings in what they say they can accommodate resulting in an additional 41 dwellings being added to the CDC figure making 650 new dwellings each year.
We question this decision because CDC has so little space on which to build all these houses.
To the north lies the SDNP, to the south lies the Chichester Harbour AONB and then the Manhood Peninsula which is part of the southern coastal plain. The southern coastal plain has some of the highest grade agricultural land in the country comprising highly productive brick earth strata and a climate suited to early ripening crops.
How can the SDNPA fail to provide sufficient space for their own housing needs despite towns such as Midhurst needing to expand?
With housing developments ongoing and likely to accelerate it is timely to consider the Council’s approach to housing design.
The Chichester Design Protocol was published in 2013 and sets out the Council’s approach to making our District more successful through quality design. It is intended to underpin their commitment to achieving sustainable development. The protocol sets out how the Council will ensure that the design of buildings, places, spaces and the networks that make up our towns and city and rural areas, work for all of us, both now and in the future.
The Chichester Society noted at the time that CDC’s priority objective for more homes needs to be balanced by insisting on design quality and landscaping.
To this the Council responded that “policies in the adopted Local Plan seek to secure a high standard of design and layout in new development and aim to ensure that development respects the character of its surroundings. Development at the strategic development locations (e.g. West of Chichester) is also subject to a Planning ‘Concept Statement’ prepared by Council officers and approved by the Council which sets out a clear statement of design guidance and principles that informed the preparation of masterplans by the developers to ensure that a coordinated approach is taken to the development and associated infrastructure and in subsequent applications for outline and detailed planning permission. The planning system allows applicants to apply for outline planning permission to establish the quantum and principles of development prior to developing more detailed plans of the scheme. Subsequent applications for reserved matters approval are subject to the Council’s usual public notification and consultation procedures and the same referral criteria to the Planning Committee as for outline applications under the Council’s constitution also apply. There is, therefore, ample opportunity for the public to be engaged in the planning process for such applications”.
Work to deliver the priorities set out in the Chichester Vision will shift up a gear thanks to a detailed action plan which sets out timescales and responsibilities.
The Chichester Vision looks ahead over the next 20 years and brings together a wealth of ideas that have been put forward by individuals, groups and organisations across the city.
The aim is to help Chichester attract inward investment and stimulate economic growth by making the most of its heritage and culture, while also adapting to better meet the needs of residents, workers, visitors, and students.
Priorities are to reduce traffic, support independent businesses and create a more diverse evening culture
The Vision was formally adopted this year by Chichester District Council, West Sussex County Council, Chichester City Council and the board of Chichester BID (Business Improvement District). A Steering Group will oversee the delivery plan which states what the short and medium term goals are.
Four of the main Vision projects have been identified as part of the newly announced Growth Deal for Chichester. These are schemes which will require close partnership working between Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council.
These include the Southern Gateway, Northern Gateway, West Sussex Gigabit Project, and a City Centre Transport Feasibility Study. This study, which is being led by WSCC, is a crucial piece of work as a number of other Vision projects are connected to it.
“This is a very exciting time and there is a strong sense of people working together to help achieve this Vision,” says Councillor Tony Dignum, Leader of Chichester District Council. “It is extremely positive that the lead projects have been identified in the Growth Deal. By prioritising them and providing resources it shows everyone is committed and serious about making them happen.
“Meanwhile, the Vision Steering Group’s focus will be on much smaller projects but which share the objective of making the city more attractive to users of all ages: residents, visitors, workers and students.
“Typical examples of such projects are: improved wayfinding, more cycle racks and benches, Priory Park building refurbishment, and an improved tourism offer. We are delighted that a funding bid to the West Sussex pooled business rates has been successful. This funding will be used to help improve shop fronts in the city and we will have more detail about this at the beginning of next year.
“Of course, it’s important to remember that the Chichester Vision is a long term look at the city, so it will take time to achieve everything that has been set out. We have made an excellent start and I want to reassure people that they will be updated regularly on progress as we move these projects forward.”
The Chichester Society has submitted its response via the questionnaire to the District Council’s draft Southern Gateway Masterplan. It can be viewed here.
While supporting the general thrust of the proposals the Society feels that the Master Plan is fundamentally flawed by not providing a solution for the level crossings misery. The provision of a bus gate and the existing crossing on Stockbridge Road and a shallow underpass for cars on or parallel to Basin Road is a workable solution.
As regards the Strategic Environmental Assessment the Society stated that the feasibility of the Master Plan aspirations and timetable require forward planning and investment now to enable the essential infrastructure items such as drainage, moving the bus depot, moving the Royal Mail Sorting Office, and land purchase for the underpass / level crossing solution.
Society Chairman Richard Childs explains the Society’s wish-list
In March the Chichester Society responded to a consultation on the District Council’s Vision for the city centre over the next 20 years. Our response can be seen in full on the website. This article is a summary of that vision.
We feel that as the main entry points to the city centre, it is vitally important to improve the four gateways. So looking at each in turn our thoughts are as follows:
Northgate We believe the Northgate gyratory should be abolished and an attractively designed hotel built on the footprint of Metro House. A signal-controlled pedestrian/cycle route on a line from St Paul’s Road to North Street would be of immense benefit to everyone, notably residents.
Redesign Northgate car park to provide a landscaped walkway from Oaklands Way to the Theatre, enhanced with low level bollard lighting. This walkway would be orientated and focused north towards the theatre and south to the Cathedral spire. A signal-controlled pedestrian/cycle junction is required for crossing Oaklands Way, thereby providing a popular alternative to the pedestrian tunnel.
Southgate Again, we believe that this gyratory ought to be abolished and the northern leg made for two-way traffic. The Crown Court has enormous potential for conversion to a multi-use venue but primarily as a concert hall. The vast spaces of the bus garage would be ideal for large scale gigs. Everyone recognises the canal basin’s scope for regeneration and we support a variety of leisure uses for this location: an hotel, bars and restaurants with landscaped terraces fronting onto the canal. No structures should obscure views of the cathedral and its spire. Create a purpose-designed ‘gateway’ feature at the location of the former South Gate. Move the bus station north of the railway as part of the existing station forecourt. Is this the moment to mention the elephant in the room? The reason for increasing traffic congestion in this neighbourhood is the railway. Why not commission a feasibility-study as one element of a Southgate master plan to provide road bridges in place of the two level crossings?
Westgate We would like to see a landscaped garden on part or all of the Orchard Street car park. This amenity would be some compensation for the anticipated loss of Westgate roundabout due to highway works associated with the Whitehouse Farm development. Nearby, the untapped potential use of the Cathedral Green can be explored. For example, create several ramps between the raised footpath and West Street – a feature that would be popular with wheelchair users. Remove the diseased lime trees over time and replant. Retain bus stops but place two heritage-type bus shelters outside former Post Office.
Eastgate This gyratory should also be abolished. We would make St Pancras and The Needlemakers two-way. We would pedestrianise The Hornet to create a quirky shopping quarter on the lines of those in Brighton or Lewes, all of which are flourishing with small traders since pedestrianisation projects. Kwik Fit must be relocated to the city periphery and in its place developed retail space for small units from St Pancras through to The Hornet. Small retail units would fit well on the North and/or East side of the Cattle Market car park. Parts of this substantial area could become a covered market, of the kind seen in almost all French towns. Such buildings can be extremely attractive.
The City’s Night Time Economy – adding pizzazz We would like to see the city centre become even more attractive through imaginative floodlighting. This would focus on the principal elements of the city’s urban character: buildings like the Council House, the Guildhall, St Olaves Church, former Corn Exchange, St Pancras Church and St John’s Chapel; but also historic structures such as the City Walls at Jubilee Park and Westgate Fields, or the Bell Tower & St Peter the Great, or the Gateway to Canon Lane. This city could become famous for its ‘lighting festival’ timed during the Christmas season and the Festival of Chichester in June-July.
Increasing City Centre Accommodation Proactive policies and programmes can encourage owners of retail and office space to develop surplus accommodation, ideally for flats or small business units.
Protecting Chichester’s Special Character Chichester’s “Special Character” owes much to its rural setting and rural features of much of this city. These aspects need greater acknowledgement and protection possibly through the medium of existing design guides. For example: hedges rather than fences, wooden street furniture rather than big-city steel and plastic. Planning policy should seek to “knit together” the street scene, without too many stand-out, statement buildings. New buildings within the city centre should aim to be quietly sympathetic rather than shouting for attention. But even where the occasional “statement building” is permitted it must be sensitive to its neighbours.
And finally, the Society would like to
Improve the appalling state of the city centre’s pavements.
Provide a high quality Tourist Information Centre in North Street under the Council Chamber with glazing in the arches.
Use architectural competitions for larger development sites to ensure high quality design.
Provide more seats in the city centre, particularly in South Street and Southgate.
Re-open public toilets that have been closed in recent years.
Could any of these aspirations come to fruition in years to come? While recognising the constraints, not least finance, we can hope – and indeed this is why the District Council has sponsored such a wide ranging public consultation. Hope. An important word; there’s even a website dedicated to poetry with hope!
(This article and the following comment originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of the Society’s Newsletter)
Steve Oates, CDC Economic Development Manager and Chichester Vision Project Manager, comments: “We received a strong response to our six week public consultation. Subject to any further amendments, it’s anticipated the final Vision will be adopted by Chichester District Council, West Sussex County Council, Chichester City Council and Chichester BID during July. From that point the work really begins! A delivery plan and team will be formed to ensure the aspirations and ambitions set out in the Vision become reality over the next couple of decades”.
The Pallants are an ancient area in Chichester. Originally known as the Palatine (of the palace) these four streets belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury and this situation persisted until the nineteenth century.
In medieval times it was an area of commerce with many malt houses and other merchant properties. In 1724 Daniel Defoe wrote that Chichester was “not a place of much trade, nor is it very populous”, having a population of just 400 souls. The eighteenth century though was a time of expansion and much of the town was re-built in brick giving birth to a flourishing brick industry. In this century many of the houses in the Pallants became “gentrified”, some being completely re-built and others leaving a timber structural frame to be clad in brick according to the Georgian fashion.
The view presented today is that of a fine Georgian street but this hides the much earlier beginnings of the streets. In particular 9 West Pallant, sporting a handsome Georgian façade dates back to the early Tudor period and internally there is much to remind one of this. After the last war many of these wonderful buildings were listed Grade II to ensure that they are preserved. In recent years there has been a tendency for the commercial occupiers to move from the area and this has led to many houses reverting to residential use.
Today most of the houses are in residential use and they certainly make elegant homes which are a delight to the eye. However, with elegance comes responsibility. In effect the owner of a listed building becomes a caretaker of the heritage. Unlike many ordinary properties where the building might be extended without planning permission under the Permitted Development rules if you are the proud owner of a listed building the size of the planning dossier can become quite daunting. For almost every alteration no matter how small and application for Listed Building consent is required which includes a Heritage statement and a Design and Access statement. In addition you may well also need planning consent. The Pallants are of course within a conservation area, so account is taken of the effect of any alterations on the surrounding area. So plenty of pitfalls and professional advice is seriously recommended.
By way of illustration I give by way of example a project in West Wales with which I have been involved and which was recently the subject of a Restoration Man programme on Channel 4. This particular project was unusual in that it involved both a listed building and a scheduled ancient monument. Another fly in the ointment of this project was that over the thirty or so years it took to complete the project legislation changed and rules were altered.
Thirty years ago my client bought a gazebo which had been built on top of a medieval tower forming part of the town walls in Pembroke. The gazebo and the surrounding piece of garden had once formed part of an elegant 18th century house on the high street but which had been separated because the owners lacked the means to restore the gazebo.
The gazebo was in a ruinous state and the accommodation, which it offered, was limited to one room on each of the two floors. In order to make the property useable it would be necessary to extend it. So plans were drawn up and we consulted with CADW (the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage). After several visits and much discussion CADW gave their blessing and we applied for planning permission which was eventually granted with many conditions. With paperwork secure we employed a contractor to commence the works. Because of the existing town walls (which we were not allowed to touch) everything for the work had to be craned over the wall. All went well to start with and much of the structure for the new extension was completed. Then disaster struck. After three months the contractor suddenly went bankrupt bringing the work to a sudden halt. My client was quite distressed by this turn of event s was so fed up that he walked away from the project.
A hiatus of over two decades ensued before I received, quite out of the blue, a phone call from my client suggesting that as he was now retired it might be a good time to resurrect this project.
Early in 2014 the documents for the project were retrieved from the archives and dusted off. Over the intervening years my client had had time to think more about the project and some changes were necessary which involved Planning applications and Listed Building consent. In the meantime the construction drawings were prepared and a new contractor engaged to carry out the works. So far so good.
By April 2014 the contractor had been on site for several weeks when one morning a lady from CADW turned up on site and told us that we must cease work immediately as we did not have planning permission for the work which we were undertaking!
The lady from CADW explained that although we had all the correct planning consents including Listed Building consent for the 18th century gazebo we had no consents for the medieval tower on which it sits. For this we needed to apply for Scheduled Ancient Monument consent. I did point out that the work which affected the medieval tower had been carried out thirty years previously. My pleas fell on deaf ears. We would have to apply for ancient monument consent which she said, had we applied for it thirty years previously it would have been refused! My response was that in that case she would have no alternative but to refuse consent following which my client would involve CADW in a very costly lawsuit. After several months permission was granted but with a rider that CADW did not approve of what we were doing.
Despite the amazing tangle of planning paperwork the project was successfully completed in 2015, although it has to be said that there were two zeros on the contract price compared with the original contract.
The moral of the story is that it is a wonderful experience to own a listed building – but never do anything without sound advice.
Last year the Chichester District Council in association with The Partners of the Chichester Vision Group produced ‘Chichester Tomorrow … … A Vision For Chichester’. This was published as a consultation document inviting comments from interested parties and individuals.
In the document the Council stated that ‘The Vision will serve as a template against which to test new projects and proposals emerging for the City Centre. The Vision will guide and, where appropriate, direct future economic and planning policy for the City Centre, guide how future budgets and resources are allocated, and it will help attract inward investment‘.
The consultation ended on 19 March 2017 and The Chichester Society gave its views through its Executive Committee in a document dated 10 March and available here.
The District Council asked for views on its document outlining a vision for the future of Chichester. The Pallants Residents’ Association made up of 50 households in the Pallant roads area of the City have made their views known in a letter to Stephen Oates, Economic Development Manager.
In their extensive response they stated that ‘ We think that your proposals, almost in their entirety, are deeply flawed. We expect an invitation to further discuss matters at a later stage and to be fully consulted throughout‘.