Tourism bungle as Midhurst information centre closes

Chichester District Council's  Information Centre in North Street, Midhurst
Chichester District Council's Information Centre in North Street, Midhurst

A BUREAUCRATIC wrangle has left Midhurst – the market town at the heart of the new national park – without a tourist information centre.

Plans to merge Chichester District Council’s information centre with the South Downs National Park’s visitor centre in its new Capron House headquarters have fallen through after the national park said it would open the centre only on weekdays.

It means CDC’s current information centre in North Street will close – and visitors to the town will be left with just a rack of leaflets inside the new Grange centre.

But Midhurst’s district councillor Gordon McAra, pictured on the front page when signs were put up welcoming visitors to the heart of the South Downs National Park, said the compromise was not good enough.

“I am very disappointed because the national park’s visitor centre and CDC’s tourist information centre together are a key part of the Midhurst visitor experience. Having it reduced to a rack of leaflets at the Grange isn’t right and doesn’t work.

“I know CDC do not have any resources, but nonetheless in principle we should be doing more to find ways of raising our visitor profile.

“In my view the town council and CDC will have to come up with a better solution and it is something I will be raising.”

“It is extraordinary they would not be open at the weekend.”

CDC leader Heather Caird told fellow 
members of the cabinet on Tuesday: “That is when people are around. It’s bizarre.”

Cabinet member John Connor said it was ‘unbelievable’ the national park authority would not open at the weekend as it would be ‘for their own benefit’.

The district council’s plan was to merge the services and find a third party to deliver the information service in the town – but neither authority was able to find ways to fund salaries or operational costs.

Kenrick Garraway, assistant director for economy, said he wanted to ‘reduce the cost of the service to the council to zero’, and the only way was to do it was to close the current centre.