50th Anniversary in 2023!

We are celebrating the birth of the Chichester Society in the autumn of 1973.  It was born as protest against changes that were viewed as wrecking this city’s character.  We honour David Goodman whose inspirational address was greeted by acclamation and a wish to preserve rather than destroy, illustrated by Somerstown’s demolition during the previous decade – whose demise we record in our December newsletter*.

The Chichester Society wants the best for this city: housing that is affordable, good public transport, a vibrant city centre; somewhere that is clean, tidy and respectful of our heritage, admired by residents and visitors alike.  We welcome initiative and growth, especially when allied to youthful endeavour, which is why we’re pleased to publish a good-news article* on the University of Chichester’s success.

Our problems are not unique because the clash between urban growth and conservation is experienced across the country. But Chichester, squeezed between the Downs and Harbour, is experiencing wholly inappropriate development.  This country invented the planning system as protection fromurban sprawl but the setting of our city is being rapidly destroyed. In recent years we have lost farmland separating the town from nearby villages such as Westhampnett, leaving only a gap, the Daffodil Field, between Summersdale and Lavant remaining.  We have built hundreds of new dwellings encircling our city.  We endure traffic levels that are unacceptable.  If our Local Plan can be approved we can at least reduce new housing numbers to some extent.

We are fortunate to live in a town of charm and character.  But the development threats whilst no new Local Plan is in place are being repeated on a damaging scale today as a result of Planning Appeals.
The case is clear – let’s argue for the best that good planning and architecture can provide.

*the December newsletter has been delivered to members, and will be available on this site in the spring.  In the meantime do look at the 25th anniversary newsletter that describes the momentous events that provoked the start of the Chichester Society.

Golden Anniversary Tree Planting

ChiSoc 50th anniversary tree planting
ChiSoc 50th anniversary tree planting

On Friday 24 November members met at 11am in Jubilee Park South near the New Park Centre to plant a tree to  commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Chichester Society, close to the tree planted in 2013 to mark the society’s 40th anniversary.

Anniversay Plaque
Anniversay Plaque

Where has Chichester’s Civic Pride gone?

If you get off a bus outside Chichester Cathedral, what do you see?
Dilapidated flower beds with a sign proudly displaying the fact that they belong to Chichester City Council.  There’s also another weed-strewn flower bed nearby beside Phillip Jackson’s statue of St Richard.  Why isn’t this flower bed maintained by the Cathedral’s works team?

Uncared-for trees on West Street
Uncared-for trees on West Street leave littel room for buggies and pushchairs. Photo Brian Henhan

Let us return to our hapless bus passengers, residents or visitors to Chichester leaving their bus, who will have to squeeze (this is late July), beneath and between untrimmed over-hanging lime trees, negotiate rubbish on the ground.  Across the road is another eye-sore, the once proud Army and Navy store (and later House of Fraser) now seemingly abandoned for the past four years waiting for its Guernsey-based owners to decide its future.  If our bus passengers get as far as the Cross, they are just as likely to fall over one of the trip hazards on our pavements.  When is our highway authority, West Sussex County Council (WSCC), going to do something about the parlous state of the paving?

We live in hope!  Chichester District Council (CDC) has commissioned a Regeneration Strategy for Chichester, agreed at Full Council in mid-July – but this city is in dire need of action now!  Could our City Council better maintain not only their flower beds but also pay for sweepers to keep pavements in front of the Cathedral clean?  Cannot the interminable
discussions about paving in the city centre – and who pays for what – be concluded at long last by WSCC?  And we must ask CDC to publish their Regeneration Strategy and deliver it as soon as possible.  In the meantime, our ‘Councils’ should do their bit to improve the dilapidated state of our city centre now and not later.  If they can’t do it perhaps we the
residents should form a work party to tidy the place up!

Peter Evans, Chairman

Why can’t Chichester create a buzzy transport hub?

Bill Sharp says some places have well designed rail/bus hubs which show what’s possible here. 

Readers will know that the Society is concerned about plans to do away with Chichester Bus Station and replace it with stops scattered to some forlorn location or other. (See Newsletter 212, June 2022, pp 2-3).  The Society is keen to see this idea unceremoniously dumped in favour of one of two possibilities.
As one option, we suggest the existing bus station could simply be refreshed.  In most people’s eyes this building is, to say the least, down at heel.  But it does have its admirers. The insightful blog Beauty of Transport states ‘Chichester bus station.  The brickwork!  The windows!  The serifed lettering!  The cantilevered balcony!  I love it all.’

However, the Society is even keener on the idea of creating a new, fully-integrated bus/rail hub as part of the Southern Gateway re-development plans.

What might a combined bus & rail hub look like? 
Here is one interpretation for a new transport hub at Chichester – see the June 2023 Newsletter for the full article showing other examples.

Idea for a combined Bus & Rail Hub
Image by Andrew Bain




Priory Park: loved and cherished, yet vulnerable

Priory Park - Cricket
Cricket – played on Priory Park since 1871

The Reverand Bruce Ruddock, Chairman of Priory Park Society, reflects on the care and use of a treasured community asset in the June 2023 Newsletter.

He points out a glaring need to restore or rebuild some of the park’s dilapidated buildings:

• Red brick pavilion – Chichester District Council (CDC) has spent tens of thousands of pounds reviewing its future, but rats remain its only visitors.
• Cricket pavilion – as long ago as 1977 plans were submitted for a new
pavilion: the existing ‘White Pavilion’ is now unsafe and not fit for purpose.
• Bowls pavilion – a refurbished or extended bowls pavilion would enable club members to entertain their opposition guests in ways that are at present impossible.
• The Motte – money spent in recent years has been wasted by failing to provide adequate protection and not allowing the ground repairs time to bed in, so that the ‘open wounds’ in the form of cycle and sliding tracks down its sides are worse than ever.
• Play area – there is a clear recognition that the play area needs enhancement, not just by replacing equipment.

New management?
It has often been suggested that the management of Priory Park should be transferred from CDC to the City Council.  I have not sensed any great appetite for this idea, but
maybe our new district councillors will drive it forward.  Should PrioryPark be managed by a CharitableTrust along the lines of the originalPriory Park Society in 1850?  (Without
of course the exclusivity of thefamous subscribers’ keys).  Whateverthe future, the urgent need is forproper security, joined-up thinking and a cohesive and bigger visionin the corridors of power.  Those of us who use the park value its beauty and tranquillity and love
seeing people enjoying themselves.

The Duke of Richmond gave the park as a memorial to t he fallenin the First World War and as a place of recreation for the people of Chichester.  As such, it deserves our respect and the Priory ParkSociety will continue to support this wonderful space in any way we can.
I encourage readers to come and join us.

See the June 2023 Newsletter for the full article.

Graffiti on the Via Ravenna Underpass

A prize-winning mural designed to stop graffiti is decaying, which encourages more graffiti. Richard Childs explains
The history of this mural is interesting. It decorates the Via Ravenna pedestrian subway located close to Waitrose. In 1987 County Council highways staff wanted to reduce the potential for graffiti in a newly-built underpass, part of the walking route between Chichester Station and the College used by hundreds of people every day which is also part of the South Coast National Cycleway from Cornwall to Kent.

Via Ravenna Underpass plaque
Via Ravenna Underpass plaque

The County’s highways team organised a design competition which was won by a College student with a montage of Chichester scenes imagined from a passing train. Volunteers
from highways and the building contractor painted the mural. But after some 25 years it was showing its age, so the Chichester Society decided in 2012 that refurbishing this mural would be a suitable way to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Society’s forthcoming 40th anniversary.
County support
As a first step we applied for a grant from the County Council to finance a professional conservator to survey the mural and report on its condition. In July 2012, the County Council awarded £400 from its Community Initiative Fund as a contribution towards the conservator’s £600 fee to carry out this work. This report identified the cost of the mural’s
conservation and refurbishment could be substantial, possibly as much as £70,000.

A practical solution was identified which cost much less than anticipated. In November 2013, a further grant application was submitted, this time to the County Council’s Big Society Fund for refurbishing the mural, and in February 2014 £9,500 was awarded. We found a mural specialist in Portsmouth and commissioned Art and Soul Traders. The refurbished mural was unveiled on 30 July 2014 by the then Chairman of the County
Council, Councillor Mrs Amanda Jupp; a plaque marks the occasion.
We reproduce here one of the newly painted murals.

Repainted Mural summer 2014 - Passing the Cathedral
Repainted Mural summer 2014 – Passing the Cathedral

How life changes!
For most of 2022 the Chichester Society has been pursuing the removal of increasing graffiti on the Via Ravenna mural. Here is a timeline of frustration:
On 7 February 2022, we emailed Chichester District Council regarding the graffiti. As people probably won’t know, the public are directed to contact the District Council even though some graffiti removal is the County Council’s responsibility. In this case the District Council said they would forward my email to WSCC.
After 7 weeks the graffiti hadn’t been removed so we again emailed the District Council on 18 March. They promised to remind WSCC of the issue.
A further 7 weeks elapsed with no removal of the graffiti so yet again we emailed the District Council on 6 May. This time the District Council suggested that as they were having no luck with WSCC that we should contact them directly!! We decided to write to the relevant WSCC Cabinet Member about the problem.
On 22 June the Cabinet Member replied as follows: I have made enquiries and ascertained that we have a responsibility to remove offensive or racist graffiti from Council managed assets. In this case, as the graffiti appears to be neither offensive nor racist it won’t be
addressed by WSCC. A few years ago the Council agreed to reduce the budget for this activity to reflect the limit of the operations we undertake.

Some of the graffiti is almost artistic!
Some of the graffiti is almost artistic!

Time to act?
We, the Chichester Society, did all the ‘heavy lifting’ during the project to achieve the mural’s refurbishment, while local governments’ contribution has been minimal
and passive. How ironic, given the County Council’s involvement with the mural for over 35 years, that it is now happy to let it be grossly despoiled by graffiti. Clearly the current incumbents at County Hall are unaware of this fact. WSCC’s anticipated net expenditure for 2022/3 is £648 million. Surely a couple of hundred pounds to clean up the graffiti isn’t asking too much. Is it?

Postscript: as at January 2023 the graffiti illustrated on this page remains in place. WSCC’s policy is not to remove graffiti unless it is offensive or racist. What do readers think? Has this graffiti become ‘offensive’?
Richard Childs is a member of the Society’s Executive Committee and this magazine’s editorial group. All images by members of the Chichester Society

THis article appeared in the March Newsletter with additional photos

The City Centre’s Paving must be renewed now!

It’s well over 40 years since Chichester was pedestrianised and the case for upgrading and renewing paving is overwhelming, especially as the York stone wasn’t intended for vehicles
Readers may think Council inertia is surprising. The condition of this city’s paving has been reviewed over the years but nothing occurs ‘on the ground’ except the appearance of occasional repair teams. Residents want action. We appreciate our elected representatives hesitating to commit £15.5 to £18 million for a high-quality solution – sums stated by consultants WSP on page 120 of their report published March 2021. But we reproduce here photographs of improved paving in three other town centres. If these communities can do it, why not Chichester?

Chichester city centre pavements
Chichester city centre pavements

Two reports on the condition of Chichester’s paving are relevant:

Building Design Partnership recommended in 2009 ‘The existing paving has been in place since the 1970s and … is now showing signs of wear and tear’.

WSP published their report in 2021. They begin by commenting on ‘an increasing number of complaints about the condition of the city centre pavements and an increase in trips and slips’. They conclude that ‘the quality of repairs needs to improve’ and ‘there are significant issues with unmanaged vehicle movements over areas of pavement likely to have only been designed and constructed to take pedestrian loadings …’ As mentioned above WSP think the budget for a comprehensive scheme for the Market Cross, North and East Streets could be £15.5 to £18 million. We must assume renovating South Street and West Street would be an additional cost.

The Chichester Society is not qualified to comment on technical aspects, but on the basis of our links with the community, we know Chichester’s residents expect our councils to agree a solution soon. This awareness prompted the Society to write to the County Council as highway authority.

Abbreviated – see March Newsletter for the full article, including a summary of the Chichester Society’s letter

An opportunity to create a wildflower oasis in Chichester

John Templeton explains the background and how this proposal could become a reality.
The first phase of the Whitehouse Farm housing development (or Minerva Heights as it’s now called) comprises 750 homes and is well under way. An outline planning application for a second phase with a further 850 homes was submitted in July 2022. This includes what the developers call a Northern Country Park on two fields opposite Whitehouse Farm, and immediately south of Brandy Hole Copse Local Nature Reserve (see map). It’s proposed these fields would not be developed for housing but remain as Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace, or SANGS in planning jargon. This approach compensates for the loss of greenspace on the remainder of Whitehouse Farm.
The Chichester Society has made a formal objection to creating a Northern Country Park, because this proposal is misplaced. Country Parks was introduced in the Countryside Act 1968 for the development of ‘honeypot’ recreational facilities on the outskirts of London and other major urban areas. The intention was to discourage people from driving into the surrounding countryside. A good example is Queen Elizabeth Country Park between Horndean and Petersfield which provides a large car park, café, gift shop, tourist information and toilets as well as cycleways and guided walks through the forest and to Butser Hill.
Local Nature Reserve 
Brandy Hole Copse (formerly named East Broyle Copse) is a 15 acre area of woodland, on the southern side of Brandy Hole Lane. Part belongs to Chichester District Council and the rest to two landowners. The public are allowed to visit the Copse on foot from several access points on Brandy Hole Lane and Centurion Way cycle-footpath. Years ago, most of the Copse was impenetrable but a hurricane-force storm in 1987 brought down many trees. A public meeting in 1989 called by the District Council and Sussex
Wildlife Trust led to the formation of the Brandy Hole Copse Conservation Group, now the Friends of Brandy Hole Copse, to care for it. After years of work including enlarging two ponds and creating footpaths, the Copse was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2001.
Up to the present time, Brandy Hole Copse (BHC) is the only designated Local Nature Reserve in Chichester District. It’s managed by the Council through the BHC
Management Board. Members include council officers, District and City councillors and residents of local bodies including the Chichester Society. A long-held wish of the Friends is that the two fields immediately south of the Copse should be planted as wildflower meadows and included within an enlarged Local Nature Reserve. These fields and the Copse were also cherished by the late naturalist Richard Williamson as being of major importance for nature conservation. As a tribute to Richard, we reproduced an evocative article he wrote for the Chichester Observer in May 2013 and published it in the September 2022 Newsletter. He asked whether Cicestrians cared about this green space? We and the Friends of Brandy Hole Copse certainly do!
At the time of writing, the two fields are still part of Whitehouse Farm and the larger field is still farmed.
The owners have for many years allowed people to walk along the borders of both fields and this has been widely enjoyed by those visiting Brandy Hole Copse and Centurion Way. The developers’ proposals give no details of how the country park would be created but show paths and cycleways wandering across the fields with clumps of trees and play-on-the-way facilities.
Expanding the nature reserve 
We think these two fields should be brought under the management of Brandy Hole Copse Local Nature Reserve and given priority to nature as is the case with the Copse itself. The paths around the borders of the fields should be well surfaced for use by buggies and wheelchairs for access into the Copse and Centurion Way. A cycleway could also be provided from Old Broyle Road (B2178) to Centurion Way. The newly planted meadows would be protected as nature is allowed to take over.
The District Council’s updated Local Plan designates Centurion Way as one of a series of wildlife corridors connecting Chichester Harbour with the South Downs. The Copse sits astride this corridor with the new wildlife meadows adjacent to it acting as stepping- stones for nature as climate change gains momentum.

Chichester now twinned with Speyer

Chichester City Council has just completed a twinning ceremony with the
German city of Speyer. Rodney Duggua tells the story.
Before describing Chichester’s latest twinning (we also have civic links with Malta, Chartres in France and Ravenna in Italy), it will help to understand where Speyer is located and what makes it so very special. You can see on the map that Speyer is on the banks of the River Rhine, north of Strasbourg at the same latitude as Paris – so not far from Chichester.
With a population a little over 50,000 Speyer is one of Germany’s oldest towns dating to the Romans. Indeed, the original Roman name for Speyer is Noviomagus as it was for Chichester. Speyer has a cathedral designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO and has a great deal of history, heritage and character. It’s a fitting civic match to twin with Chichester.

Twinning with Chichester

Speyer Map
Speyer’s location is on the Rhine east of Paris and north of Strasbourg. This sketch is an approximation, not to scale

What encouraged links with Speyer is that Chartres and Ravenna have civic ties with Speyer, so why not with Chichester as well? The reasoning behind this caution is that Speyer was already twinned with Spalding in Lincolnshire, a link that is now defunct. This has provided Chichester with an opportunity to fill a ‘civic gap’. The outcome is that Chichester City Council formally agreed in September 2019 to explore links with Speyer. Nearly three years later, with Covid travel restrictions lifted, Speyer’s representatives came on a fact-finding visit to Chichester in August 2022 – their Deputy Mayor and Director of Tourism.
The weather held fair to show Chichester and its environs at their very best. There was a packed programme. Speyer’s representatives fell in love with our city and eagerly posed
the question of ‘when can we sign on the dotted line?’  Both Councils had to meet to ratify the formal twinning decision, which was done within weeks of each other last autumn.

Chichester’s Local Plan Review approved for public consultation

Christopher Mead-Briggs explains the Local Plan has reached its final stage

Chichester Local Plan

There can be few jobs tougher than pulling together the changes needed to our out-of-date Local Plan so that it passes an Inspector’s Examination. It was in 2017 that we were first introduced to the ‘Preferred Approach’ document that began this process followed by a public consultation on ‘Issues and Options’ in the winter of 2018.
Since then, work has been on-going with specialist planners, transport experts and statisticians who have been meeting government agencies to review how the growth in our District area in terms of new housing and employment can be managed.  With all our geographical and physical constraints, an A27 which needs upgrading, a Harbour that’s an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a National  Park, can Chichester meet the housing targets set by Government?

New housing numbers down
The District Council agreed on 24 January to submit reduced housing numbers. The Government had required our District to build 638 dwellings per annum; the new figure is 575 a year for the length of the Plan period of 18 years from 2021 until 2039.

The biggest update in the revised plan is however more emphasis on climate change,
the natural environment, the importance of gaps between settlements, the establishment
of Strategic Wildlife Corridors, biodiversity and the need to protect our designated landscape areas.  In addition thought has been given to the possibility of a new settlement altogether where longer term housing growth might be accommodated elsewhere than Chichester.

The revised Plan has been out for public consultation between 3 February and 17 March this year and will be followed by an Examination led by an Inspector; only then can it be approved.  We’ve reached what’s called Regulation 19 stage in the process and this
means that the submitted Plan will now carry more weight in those planning appeals that
are outstanding.

Other policies
As part of the process, housing allocations have risen in Tangmere but reduced to nil in
the Manhood Peninsular with the exception of North Mundham. Additional employment land is allocated along the A27 at Bognor Road, and at Westhampnett to allow the expansion of the existing Rolls Royce factory. There are proposals to encourage the vitality of Chichester’s city centre reflecting the recent changes to planning regulations and also to
tourism generally.
Let’s hope the Local Plan Review succeeds.
Christopher Mead-Briggs is a member of the Society’s Executive Committee. 
From The Chichester Society’s Newsletter no 215 March 2023

For further background see https://www.chichester.gov.uk/localplanexplained 

And for more articles like this do join the Chichester Society and receive the quarterly newsletter.