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‘.
A reconvened Planning Committee Meeting to discuss Whitehouse Farm will be held at CDC Offices, East Pallant House at 2pm on Friday 11 November. Any thoughts to put further pressure on developers for a Southern access may be fruitless as the developers Miller and Linden Homes threaten to go to appeal. In their letter (viewable here) they state ‘an appeal will be submitted if there is either further deferral or refusal of the application at committee on 11th November‘
The Chichester City Council Assembly Room was the location on the evening of Tuesday 27 September for those opposed to the Court closures to hear arguments against this plan. The meeting was chaired by Peter Budge, Mayor of Chichester, with a Panel of speakers comprising His Honour Judge Robin Barrett QC Retired Circuit Judge, Edward Cook Solicitor at Anderson Rowntree Solicitor and Vice Chair of Resolution West Sussex, Sara Fildes Solicitor and Director of Owen-Kenny Partnership and committee member of Chichester district Law Society, Edward Hand Criminal Barrister and Louise Goldsmith Leader of West Sussex County Council.
Robin Barratt opened the proceedings citing several areas of objection. First, is the significance of the removal of a system of justice from our City; this fails to understand history and he described this as a ‘sacrifice on the altar of money’. Second, is the flawed process that was followed. While the start was promising it soon became clear that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) had the end result in mind from the start. This has resulted in West Sussex being only one of two Counties without such Courts (the other being Northumberland). Third, the judges were not properly consulted throughout. This was exemplified by an early suggestion for a combined court to alleviate the closure being subsequently rejected because ‘sadly your proposal came too late’; this despite the promise not to close the Courts until local provisions were in place. This aspect was one covered by Edward Cook who followed Robin with a detailed chronology of the process.
The logistical problems faced by those having to interact with the legal system will only increase. Edward Hand cited cases with which he has had to deal and pointed out the lack of awareness that for any one case 20 to 30 support staff (court officers, clerks, judge, barrister etc) are involved. It was understood that the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne (who sent her apologies for not being present) is an advocate of video links, but experience has shown that such links have often proved unreliable and are not adequate to deal with the many different persons involved.
Cases will take much longer to be heard, asserted Sara Fildes from her experience as a Family Solicitor. It is not unusual for a parent and children to have to travel to another area to attend court, experience delays and find that the children have to be registered in this strange area to attend schools. The lack of a local court will further extend timescales while the expected population growth in our area will exacerbate the situation further. She felt that the other courts will not be able to cope.
The formal proceedings ended with Louise Goldsmith joining with other speakers in expressing anger on the closure decision and sorrow for local residents who will be faced with the inevitable increased disruption to their lives.
A lively discussion then followed chaired by the Mayor with around 20 or so local residents making their concerns felt. The support provided by the local MP Andrew Tyrie was acknowledged and everyone was urged to write individually to him with their objections and concerns (contact details below). There was a strong case for a Judicial Review of the process and this is one route that is apparently being considered.
The absence of a representative from the Chichester District Council was noted. The view was expressed that the CDC has divided loyalties and sees the land presently occupied by the Courts as an opportunity for development as part of a Southern Gateway project rather than one to be protected for judicial use.
One speaker noted those in more rural or distant areas will be particularly badly hit as they will have to get to the transport hubs in Chichester before they can begin their journey to courts elsewhere.
The Mayor concluded the meeting by thanking all those that attended. They were invited to leave email addresses as they left so that they could be informed of any follow up actions.
Report by Bob Wiggins (Editor)
Contact details for Andrew Tyrie
House of Commons
The forthcoming September 2016 issue of the Chichester Society Newsletter includes an article by Society member Christopher Mead-Briggs entitled ‘Chichester must accommodate more housing – but how?’ In it he references the following reports which can be viewed by clicking on their titles:
They can be read on screen but the best way to read the second report is to print it out because of the size of the font and the illustrative material.
Notes on the Cathedral Cities and Historic Towns Report
1. The report was written by Lord March and Terence O’Rourke MBE in March 2015 and followed an appreciation of the forecast growth of Chichester and its planned expansion. This led to a much wider review of the impact on other similar cities and towns.
2. It makes key recommendations in a succinct and readable form in a booklet of just 6 pages.
3. It followed the publication in October 2014 of a very detailed report of 178 pages produced by Richard Bate and others for English Heritage entitled “The Sustainable Growth of Cathedral Cities and Historic Towns”. That report is on the English Heritage web here.
Notes on the Cathedral Cities in Peril Report
(This pdf file presents on-screen in a sideways format which requires use of a right click of the mouse when positioned over the text of the report. Choose “rotate” to turn the text clockwise – it requires three clicks to complete the rotation.)
1. This report is an important core document written by the leading architectural practice of Foster + Partners jointly with Terence O’Rourke MBE and runs to 59 pages. It outlines the need to provide good quality housing to meet the needs of a fast growing population and recognises the attraction of our historic towns as places to live and work. They explain that the challenge will be to provide for that growth in such high quality locations without damage to their intrinsic character. It was published in March 2015.
2. The authors have considered the similarities that the English historic towns possess, many having medieval city walls, narrow streets and a large number of listed buildings. They stress the need to encourage local councils to accommodate high quality design combining constructive conservation, regeneration and infill, and the use of compulsory purchase powers where necessary to combine old with new. They suggest connecting fragmented areas lying outside the core with good public transport. They encourage community led schemes.
3. Four Cathedral Cities are considered in some detail and are compared with four cities in Europe. Conclusions are reached and then tested using Kings Lynn as the example.
4. Their six recommendations appear at the end of the report and should be read across the pages because each refers to three issues: a) the supporting national framework for each recommendation, b) the implementation barriers and c) the proposed changes to policy.
‘There are sound and clear cut reasons for refusing planning permission in the absence of any commitment to provide the Southern Access Road prior to the development of the site‘ so state The Chichester Society and the East Broyle, Parklands, Westgate and Orchard Street/Old Somerstown Residents Associations in a joint submission to the Local Council.
They further state ‘In the absence of any commitment to the provision of the Southern Access to the Via Ravenna roundabout and not to Westgate to be in place before construction of the houses in Phase 1 the application 14/04301 should be refused’.
In this BBC Radio 4 point of view broadcast on 10 June Roger Scruton addresses how we should prioritise beauty when building the countryside – Beauty in my back yard (BIMBY) not NIMBY. To listen to it click here.
BIMBY arises from the Prince’s Foundation and comprises a Toolkit with a series of workshops that guides a community through creating a BIMBY Housing Manual for their own area.
The toolkit has 3 workshops to help a community decide what it wants as a community. The outcome of the toolkit is a series of standards for developers to follow in the form of a Housing Manual. There is also guidance on how to get the Manual adopted as part of the formal planning process.