City soundbites can be ‘easily misconstrued’

Andrew Clegg, chairman of Visit Chichester
Andrew Clegg, chairman of Visit Chichester

THE CHAIRMAN of Visit Chichester has hit back over claims the city centre is ‘run-down and dirty’.

Chairman Andrew Clegg took over his role in 2011, after Visit Chichester was separated from Chichester District Council.

“In that time I have had to battle against the legacy left to me from when Visit Chichester was in the public sector – most notably a website and marketing contract that only expired in March, 2014,” he said, adding a new website had now been created and a new design and marketing agency appointed.

The claim Visit Chichester was ‘not fit for purpose’ was made at an overview and scrutiny committee meeting of the council earlier this month.

Cllr Gordon McAra called for an improved destination management organisation (DMO) to be set up to clean up Chichester and make it more appealing for tourists.

Dr Clegg, who also lectures tourism management at the University of Chichester, has responded by saying Visit Chichester did a ‘great job’ with the money it had.

However, he called on the district council to invest more to give it a bigger budget than £70,000 a year to promote the district.

The last funding from the council it received was an £8,000 grant in 2012.

“Since CDC removed virtually all their investment in tourism, a small group of members have endeavoured, on a largely volunteer basis, to support tourism with a small budget.

“Without this engagement, there would have been no representation for tourism at all,” he said.

The city centre partnership also spoke out, saying Cllr McAra’s comments ‘exaggerate the condition of our environmental infrastructure’, although it did acknowledge the comments highlighted the need for ‘less bureaucracy and more action’.

The partnership’s chairman, Andrew Finnamore, praised the work done by people keeping Chichester’s streets clean, saying they were ‘far better’ than other city centres.

He added: “The merits of overview and scrutiny are well founded, but we should not be too quick to criticise an organisation that had its funding pulled in 2012. Constructive criticism should be matched with constructive support, in whatever guise it takes, whereas soundbites are easily misconstrued by those that don’t appreciate the depth of the task.”

The partnership said closer ties were beginning to form between the BID, the chamber of commerce and Visit Chichester.