Talks over future of Midhurst tourist services

The Tourist Information Centre in North Street, Midhurst
The Tourist Information Centre in North Street, Midhurst

DESPITE the failure of attempts earlier this summer to agree the future of a tourist information centre in Midhurst, talks have now reopened in the town.

Gordon McAra told fellow town councillors the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) was keen to promote tourism in the town and that it had offered space in its new headquarters, the South Downs Centre emerging in the northern end of Capron House, for provision of this service.

He and the clerk, Joan Hursthouse, had met with SDNPA officers and others to see how best this could be provided.

In July, hopes of keeping a tourist information centre (TIC) in the town looked doomed after the SDNPA and Chichester District Council (CDC) failed to agree on plans to merge CDC’s information centre with the planned visitor centre in the SDNPA’s new £3.9m base.

It seemed visitors to the town would have to go instead to the new Grange Centre when it is opened, to find leaflets on a rack telling them about places of interest.

One of the sticking points was a condition from the national park authority that it would open its visitor centre only on weekdays, not at weekends – the peak time for visitors.

“It gives us something we thought we had before, which was then taken away from us,” said Mr McAra.

There were, he said, discussions taking place on running the TIC with volunteers at times when the main building would not necessarily be open on Saturdays and Sundays, which would mean the TIC would not just be restricted to five days a week.

Brendan Flynn, estates and administration manager for the SDNPA, told town councillors there was space in the interpretation area which was being developed in the new HQ’s reception.

But the future of the Midhurst Tourism Partnership in its present form, and the Midhurst tourist brochure it regularly produces, appear to be uncertain.

Two of its members, clerk to Midhurst Town Council Joan Hursthouse, who acts as treasurer, and town councillor Judy Fowler, who produces the brochure, have both resigned. And chairman of the council John Etherington said assistant town clerk Natasha Young, who was also involved, had now reached ‘saturation point’ with her workload.

“Is the Midhurst Tourism Partnership still a viable thing, following the recent resignations?” asked town councillor Colin Hughes.

Vice-chairman of the town council, John Quilter, who is also chairman of Midhurst Town Team, the group set up to promote Midhurst, said it was too early to consider new representation from the town council on the MTP as ‘we are not quite sure in what form it might be’.