District businesses to be given 'support package', council says
A package of support is being introduced by Chichester District Council to help support local retailers, as part of its commitment to support the high street.
A new events' programme; a bid to the Government's high street fund; improved planning guidance; marketing training; enabling grants and a shop front grant programme; are all part of a package of support that the council has started to deliver.
Cllr Tony Dignum, cabinet member for finance, growth, and regeneration at Chichester District Council said: "We met with local retailers in Chichester to ask what support they wanted to see. What was interesting is that they felt an events and activity programme would really support their businesses and help bring the city to life.
"We really pleased to tell them that this is something that we are already working on.
"We understand how challenging it is for businesses in the current climate and we want to support them in whatever way we can. We have recently appointed an events officer, who is devising an event strategy, which will hopefully attract more people into the city.
"Alongside this we have been delivering marketing training to local retailers and issuing shop front grants to help people further develop their businesses — this has already started to have an impact."
As many as 126 training sessions have taken place with 51 independent businesses across the district and already 22 shop front grants have been issued to businesses to help them with their signage and overall aesthetic.
"We have also run a successful enabling grant programme for small businesses across the district and we will be relaunching it this summer. We also understand that we need to improve the signage and maps around the city and this is a top priority.
"Chichester Business Improvement District (BID) has already employed a specialist who has reviewed the signage around the city and all partners are currently reviewing this.
"All of these projects are key actions identified under the Chichester Vision project," added Tony.
"The vision is based on feedback from local residents and businesses. We asked how they wanted to see their city develop over the next 20 years and are now in the process of delivering some of the key projects that they asked for.
"Along with our partners, we have already secured millions of pounds to support regeneration projects such as the Southern Gateway Project; and have also bid for funding from the High Streets Fund.
"We understand that people are concerned about the high street and this is why we are taking action. Many people believe that we own the shops; are responsible for setting business rates; setting rental rates; and, deciding who goes in which shop, but we have no control over any of these issues.
"Instead we are identifying ways we can help and support businesses during the current economic climate. This is why supporting local businesses is a key theme of the vision.
"It's also worth noting that Chichester is doing comparatively better than some towns and cities. Empty units do fill relatively quickly and the city is still regarded as an attractive city for businesses to set up in.
"The shop vacancy rate is running at 11.5 per cent which in Chichester is is 8.2 per cent.
"As a council we also run a business contact programme, where our economic development officers directly support local businesses and this works really well. Those who work with us feel supported and they know that when we can't help, we can often sign post them to someone else who can.
"We also want to encourage local residents to buy locally wherever possible — this also makes a massive difference. We have some amazing businesses and we can all play our role in supporting them."
The Chichester Vision was adopted in July 2017. This is a vision for the city over the next 20 years and is central to the city's economic and planning policies. This will develop Chichester as a vibrant and attractive commercial ad cultural location, and help to create substantial economic growth and new jobs, the district council has said.
The vision aims to protect the city's history and heritage, while enhancing its future vitality as the cultural capital of West Sussex; a place of learning, and an entrepreneurial retail and business centre.
Partners to the vision include: Chichester District Council; West Sussex County Council; Chichester City Council; Chichester BID; Chichester College; Chichester University; and key tourism destinations.
Public consultations has already taken place with the Chichester Vision but the district council are looking to hear from residents and stakeholder about events in the district. Anyone with thoughts on where events should be in the district, the type of events, and when the events should be held should email chichester.govmuk/letstalkevents.
Anyone who runs their own business in the district, or are looking to start a new business, can call the council's economic development team for advice and support on a range of areas.