A Vision for the City Centre – the Society’s wish-list

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:

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.

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?

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.

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”. 

An impression of Little London car park with a purpose built outdoor market area and open amenity space
(Image: Chichester District Council, ‘Chichester Tomorrow… A Vision for Chichester’)