Chichester Register Office to close

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Chichester’s register office is to close this summer – leaving couples and city businesses out of pocket.

Couples who want a civil ceremony face a choice of travelling 20 miles to Portsmouth or 45 miles to Crawley if they want to tie the knot at a register office. Their only other option is to pay extra to have their service and reception at a private venue.

Businesses close to the Greyfriars building will also be hit when they lose the business generated by the register office.

Deputy manager of the Ship Hotel, Liza Reynolds, said it would have a huge effect.

“On average we get ten, 15 or 20 weddings a year and we get quite a lot of people who just drop in.

“The impact of it will be quite big for us. It’s a huge shame. A lot of people come for the wedding then have a drink afterwards here and go off and have a party.”

The decision is part of West Sussex County Council’s bid to make savings and once the lease for the Greyfriars building in North Street ends in September, it will not be renewed.

People will still be able to register births, deaths and marriages as WSCC will relocate the service to other offices in the city, but the move will leave Chichester without an affordable wedding venue.

And in addition, rates for ceremonies in West Sussex have been dramatically increased.

People in Chichester say the move is short-sighted, as the attractive 30-capacity venue brings many visitors to the city.

It will also mean the loss of an important and popular service for people both in Chichester as well as its surrounding villages and the main towns of Bognor Regis and Midhurst.

Manager of the Old Cross in North Street, Yvonne Wallbridge said: “I’m only a few doors down from there, we do well out of it. People come for pre-wedding drinks then have their wedding and go off get married and come back as well.”

Bognor resident Christine Courtnage, who works in Chichester, got married at the register office last year and said its closure would be sad for the city.

“There is so much parking in Chichester, and the bridal car can park outside, and there is parking for people who are disabled.

“Where do you travel to now? “It is really easy to get to and afterwards there are lots of places to go to whether you want to have a sit-down meal or somewhere a bit more informal. You don’t always want everything over the top and grand.

“It does actually bring people into Chichester whether its five people or 40, or 50. It will be a real shame if it goes.”

In a statement WSCC said there was a choice of 80 venues across the county and it was working in partnership to help develop alternatives ‘to the ongoing benefit of the local economy’.

It said ceremony fees had to be increased in line with other counties.

“Historically the fees for wedding and civil partnership ceremonies in West Sussex have been set too low and we believe we need to reflect the true cost of performing such ceremonies,” a spokesman said.

“It is an inappropriate and unfair use of public resources to expect taxpayers to subsidise the cost of what is a discretionary service.”

In the past 12 months there have been 399 weddings at Greyfriars.