£350,000 vison for Midhurst

Hopes are high a £350,000 plan to improve the traffic-blighted centre of Midhurst will soon get off the ground – if the cash for the scheme can be found.

A seven-week public consultation is beginning in the town to find out what people think about plans to improve the environment.

West Sussex County Council, Chichester District Council, Midhurst Town Council and Midhurst Town Trust are working together on the scheme for Church Hill and Market Square, to make the historic area more attractive and welcoming for pedestrians.

The public consultation, conducted by West Sussex County Council, will seek people's views on a plan which is designed to reduce the number of vehicles in, and travelling through, the ancient heart of the town.

If implemented, it could see:

* the Market Square and an area of Church Hill from the war memorial to the Spread Eagle Hotel resurfaced in a gentler tone.

* the parking area between the Swan pub and the war memorial changed to a public space where market stalls or seating could be placed.

* the Market Square by the parish church turned into a public

space for outdoor cafe or pub seating or for holding community events such as fairs or farmers' markets.

In addition, a one-way street could be created in West Street from Duck Lane towards Market Square with vehicles no longer able to turn left into Red Lion Street, reducing the repetitive damage to corners of buildings.

The county's cabinet member for strategic planning and transport, Derek Whittington, said the county-designed scheme was aimed at improving the historic area of Midhurst 'by lowering speed limits and reducing the number of vehicles travelling through'.

It has faint echoes of a visionary enhancement plan put forward in 2001, with enthusiastic public support, but which foundered for lack of cash input from the county and district councils.

This time, however, there is an incentive to go at least some way towards the ultimate goal – an offer of 200,000 from the

Monument Trust.

The trust is one of the Sainsbury family charities and the offer

has been made because of the late Simon Sainsbury's connection with the area through his long occupancy of Woolbeding House.

Colin Hughes, former chairman of Midhurst Town Council, has been prominent in keeping up pressure for an enhancement scheme.

He said the county had been unable to commit funds from this year's budget because of the drain on its finances to mend roads damaged by the cold winter.

This consultation was being held with a view to having money available next year.

He added: "The injection of money from the Monument Trust is a real opportunity to keep the whole thing alive. I am very optimistic."

The public consultation is from June 1 to July 16 with information, leaflets and questionnaires available at the Grange Centre and Garston Cafe in Market Square.

Alternatively information can be found in the roads and transport section of the county council website www.westsussex.gov.uk.

If the scheme gets the go-ahead, work will start in April 2011.