CHICHESTER District Council has made a U-turn over the funding of tourist information services in Midhurst.
Last year the council announced it was closing its tourist information centre (TIC) in North Street because it wanted to ‘reduce the cost of the service to the council to zero.’
And plans to merge its information centre with the South Downs National Park visitor centre in its new Capron House headquarters fell through after the national park said it would open only on weekdays.
But now TIC services are returning to the town in a joint pilot volunteer scheme run by the national park authority, CDC and Midhurst Town Council.
CDC will fund a member of staff, based with the national park authority, for a two-month trial period to manage and co-ordinate a team of volunteers to run the weekend service.
This will allow the South Downs Centre’s current opening hours of 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday to be extended to 10am-3pm on Saturdays and the August bank holiday, throughout August and September.
As well as visiting the national park exhibition, tourists will be able to find information about attractions through touch screens and leaflets and find out about accommodation via a hotline to the TIC in Chichester’s Novium Museum.
CDC cabinet member Myles Cullen said: “This is a great partnership project that will hopefully encourage visitors to stay and explore. It will involve the council funding a temporary member of staff to support the volunteers. We have also arranged for our tourist information staff to offer support and training and make any accommodation bookings.”
Senior Midhurst town councillor Stephen Morley said: “Visitors will naturally progress from the exhibition to the visitor information and its location should help to capture a good percentage of visitors to our town.”
Visitor and enquiry numbers will be monitored to find the level of demand and if a permanent or seasonal service is needed.