Chichester ice rink should return but not in Priory Park

You have asked readers to provide their views on whether or not the ice rink should come back to Priory Park next year?

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 8:42 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 7:57 pm
DM18113231a.jpg. Opening of Chichester Ice Rink in Priory Park. Photo by Derek Martin Photography. SUS-181130-185548008

I feel, however, that the question should have been twofold – 1. Should there be an ice rink in Chichester next year? If the answer is yes – 2. Should it be located in Priory Park?

Living opposite the park for the duration of the construction, operation and clearing of the rink structures has proved to be a complete nightmare for my wife and I, living in this usually quiet residential area of the city, close to the park perimeter.

I say here and now that personally, I have no objection to an ice rink in Chichester, but Priory Park is a totally unsuitable location for it.

It was always obvious that this was so, but all warnings were totally ignored by the district council and even the Mayor’s protests were swept aside.

I don’t think many people realise ( least of all the skaters) that to keep an ice rink in operation, involves the siting of large industrial chillers and generators adjacent to the rink. These are totally necessary in order to keep the ice frozen. It also means they have to keep them running 24 hours a day for the duration of the operation.

This equipment drones on and on at variable, but always at loud and disturbing levels.

It did so, night after night, all night long for the past two months. It has driven us half ‘mad’ and no amount of silencing methods by the operator have been effective in avoiding this intrusive noise ‘invading’ our bedroom.

It denied us a proper night’s sleep for weeks on end, causing much stress. This distress has been detrimental to our health and destroyed our peace of mind.

Even with all windows closed and new ear plugs used, we were unable to stop this ghastly drone ‘boring into our heads’ like an invasive ‘earworm’.

Unless one has experienced it, you would find it hard to imagine the real pain it has caused us and we also know also, many other people living around this side of the park.

We are both in our mid-70s – most people living in this location are at least as elderly and many are much older.

Chichester District Council and our own ward councillors were amply warned of the potential problems before they gave consent for the rink, but ignored all protests in their seeming haste to hand this once beautiful park over to the promoter. For this I believe they received a token £1 fee, thus in reality subsidising him to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. One has to wonder why.

All our fears came true – the rink was a gross eyesore and the grounds have been ruined, as rain turned the whole area into a mud bath.

Priory Park, once a ‘little gem’ in the heart of our city, was gifted to all its citizens and stated to be ‘as a permanent memorial to the fallen in the first world war’.

In allowing this ill-advised use, pushed through in a hurry with little or no thought for the inevitable consequences of their actions, Chichester District Council has actually succeeded in one respect. They have actually been complicit in turning a large sector of the park into something more resembling a ‘Flanders Fields’ battle ground, than the once lovely lawns we used to so admire.

Well done CDC. (Actually it’s not an accolade I would wish to own up to.)

So ice rink? Yes. Priory Park as its location no.

Ice rinks are very noisy and need to be well away from residential property, ideally on hard standing, not soft grass. I suggest a small section of the Cattle Market Car Park as perfect for one to the left of the main entrance. It is just two or three minutes’ walk from the city centre, nowhere near housing, toilets are already on site, ample parking is there for skaters driving in, especially after about 5pm when it’s largely empty of shoppers’ vehicles.

The market has already moved from there on Wednesday and will soon do so on Saturday.

I estimate no more than 80/100 spaces max would be lost for the duration of the rink operation (a very small price to pay).

They could also take a ‘leaf out of Winchester’s book’ and establish a smart self-service restaurant overlooking the rink and forget about the ‘tacky’ fast food vans and shabby bar, that looked to be hardly used anyway.

It could run for longer and later with no protest.

A ‘no brainer’ perhaps?

John Stanley, St Martin’s Square, Chichester