National park blasted over ‘awful blemish’

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THE SOUTH Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) has been accused of ‘doing a great disservice’ to Midhurst as its future headquarters stands idle behind ugly hoarding at the start of the tourist season.

The northern end of Capron House has been hidden behind the six feet-high solid metal fencing since January when the authority announced work was beginning on the new £3m HQ. But there has been little sign of activity, and town councillors are beginning to lose patience.

Colin Hughes told fellow town councillors he was delighted the SDNPA had chosen Midhurst as its headquarters home.

“Nevertheless it’s extremely disappointing the NPA, of all people, should find it necessary to erect that awful blemish at the approach to our town.

“It’s been there for several months and there is no reason for it, except maybe to safeguard the cobbles. It has done the town a great disservice, and it will be there for the entire summer.

“I wouldn’t mind if there was work being done, but there is no indication of any work whatsoever.

“As one of their first actions to affect our town, it’s a shame it is this one and it’s to our detriment.”

Gordon McAra said he was ‘very concerned’ about the obtrusive fencing around the SDNPA’s Capron House property with apparently little happening behind it. He wanted to know what the SDNPA’s plans were and whether it could be persuaded to repaint the hoarding in a ‘more muted colour’.

Earlier this month the Observer revealed the cost of the project had soared from £1.5m to almost £3m and continuing to spiral despite little work having yet been carried out.

Chief executive Trevor Beattie said the SDNPA was negotiating a fixed price contract with contractors to combat cost escalation.

A spokesman said: “The South Downs Centre will be a great resource and we want the town to feel ownership of the project as it develops.

“We are looking at how we can improve the hoarding to both reduce its visual impact and include more information about the work happening behind it. The first phase of work ran between January and April and the second phase will begin this June. We made the decision to keep the hoarding up to maintain the security and safety of the site.”